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Ukranian swimmer gives clinic to Kauaians

PUHI — “I’m alive!” Andrii Govorov, the world record holder in the 50-meter butterfly, told a seaful of faces huddled from the rain and cold wind in the staging area at the YMCA pool.

He expressed his appreciation for the reception that brightened his depressed world during a free swimming clinic he led through the cooperative efforts of Swim Kaua‘i coach Curt Colby, former University of Hawai‘i at Manoa coach Elliot Ptasnik, and Govorov.

“I can’t be happy,” Govorov said. “I just lost two homelands. I was happy when my wife and childen were living in Ukraine before the invasion (that started about two months ago).”

Living and practicing in Budapest, Hungary in preparation for his next big meet coming up in May, Govorov said he followed the developments with Russian President Vladimir Putin since Russia took over Crimea.

The invasion of the Ukraine distracted him from his needed practice and training, and frustrated the swimmer to the point of his establishment of a humanitarian relief effort in the form of a website, andrii-govorov.com/donations.

The sight of the friendly audience at the YMCA pool did wonders to bring Govorov back from his thoughts of armed conflict and the victims of the invasion.

Colby said while practicing and training for his big upcoming meet, Govorov became acquainted with Ptasnik, who suggested a trip to Hawai‘i to help him focus.

“Of course, once he’s in Honolulu it’s easy to get him here to Kaua‘i,” Colby said. “He’s donating his time to teach the youngsters. In return, if people want to donate to his humanitarian relief aid, he’s going to welcome that.”

The clinic focused on achieving maximum velocity out of every start, underwater, breakout, turn and finish, with Govorov demonstrating the drills that needed his personal input.

“If you can put some of these into practice you’ll be swimming faster from tomorrow,” the world record holder said while being immersed with the body of swimmers and watching their individual moves.

Among the audience, Ukraine-born Elena Babich brought over Ukrainian soup she made for the local-style pa‘ina that follows many sporting clinics.

Another resident, Oksana Johnson, kept her daughter Sophia close. Oksana’s mother and two sisters were living in Ukraine when the invasion started.

“I just got back from Europe, where I picked up my mother to bring her back here,” Johnson said. “When the invastion started, they were among the people leaving the Ukraine. They went to Poland, and then to Germany, where I met them to bring my mother back here.”

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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