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Ukrainian women seek new high

But despite these protests raging in the capital Kiev in freezing temperatures, a handful of women hockey players from Ukraine were busy preparing for the Olympic Qualifiers in warmer Barcelona. Sharmistha Chaudhuri reports.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2012 23:08 IST

Feminist activists in Ukraine recently made headlines to protest the Indian authorities' move to screen visa applications from the east European country in a bid to crackdown on immigrant prostitution.

But despite these protests raging in the capital Kiev in freezing temperatures, a handful of women hockey players from the country were busy preparing for the Olympic Qualifiers in warmer Barcelona.

"Since Ukraine has very cold weather, we had an eight-day preparatory camp in Spain last month," team captain Maryna Vynohradova told HT with the aid of a translator.

In the city to try and win their first Olympic berth, Ukraine will vie for a solitary London Olympic spot with five other teams. They have even roped in former India coach Jose Brasa in an advisory role.

Maryna and teammate Yana Vozushylo only smiled when asked about their expectations from the tournament.

"We played in the 2004 and 2008 qualifiers but were unable to make the cut. Let's hope we are third time lucky," the pair of 28-year-olds said.

The 26th-ranked team in the world made it to the Olympic Qualifiers after finishing fifth in the Euro Trophy.

Most of the players in the team represent Sumchanka Club based in the city of Sumy.

"Though it's not a very popular sport back home, Sumy has attracted women players. One can find enthusiasts from all age groups playing hockey. The competition is fair and players who perform get to represent Ukraine," said Yana.

It was in Barcelona that the team practiced together for the first time.

Focussing only on the target at hand, the girls have kept themselves away from politics.

"India has been very hospitable. Everyone here is courteous," said Maryna.