Sochi Games: Ukraine skier, coach quit Olympics in anti-regime protest

Sochi: A Ukrainian alpine skier and her coach have pulled out of the Sochi Games in protest at the authorities' deadly use of force against the protests in Kiev, they said Thursday.

Ukraine's Olympic Committee insisted that other athletes still competing in at the Games were staying in Sochi, even though those who are finished would be heading home.

Bogdana Matsotska and her coach Oleg Matsotskiy, who is also her father, said they were "outraged" by the refusal of President Viktor Yanukovych to favour dialogue over force.

They are the first members of the Ukrainian team confirmed to have pulled out of Sochi 2014 over the violence that has already left dozens dead.

"In a sign of protest... against the bandit-like actions against protesters, we are taking no further part in the Sochi Olympics in 2014," Oleg Matsotskiy wrote on his Facebook page in a statement in the name of himself and his daughter.

They said that instead of moving to resolve the conflict peacefully, Yanukovych had "drowned the very hopes of Ukraine in blood."

"Glory to Ukraine, Glory to its heroes!" they said in the Ukrainian-language statement.

Matsotska, 24, had already taken part in the giant slalom and super giant slalom events. Her pullout means she will not take part in the slalom.

She is from the town of Kosiv in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of western Ukraine, a stronghold of the anti-Yanukovych protest movement.

International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams confirmed that the pair had pulled out of the Games.

He said that the head of Ukraine's Olympic Committee, the former pole vault star Sergey Bubka, understood the decision of any Ukrainian athlete who wanted to leave.

"He (Bubka) respects every athlete's decision," Adams emphasised.

The Ukrainian Olympic Committee said that its athletes and staff in Sochi had Thursday held a minute of silence led by Bubka to remember the dead.

Officials also confirmed that those Ukrainian athletes who have finished their competitions are going home, but those still involved are staying in Sochi.

Leaving before the closing ceremony is normal practice for many athletes who have finished their competitions.

The Ukrainian Olympic Committee said that those returning home were doing so "according to a previously confirmed timetable" and did not say if any of the departures were directly linked to the unrest.

"The sportsmen and women who will still take part in competitions are staying in the Olympic Village," the committee said in a statement, without giving numbers.

Bubka said that he shared the worries of the whole team but he believed it was best for them to carry on competing.

"I am of the opinion that our athletes who are representing Ukraine at the Olympic Games are carrying out an important mission of unity at this difficult time," Bubka said.

The statement said he met both Bogdana Matsotska and Oleg Matsotskiy and it was agreed they would both still stay at the Games until the end to cheer on the Ukrainian athletes.

"We are deeply worried by the tragic events and we all feel this painfully," Bubka said.

Meanwhile, Adams vehemently denied that the IOC had banned Ukrainian athletes from wearing black bands in their events at the Games to mourn the victims.

The Ukrainian Olympic Committee had clearly stated Wednesday that it had asked the IOC if its athletes could wear black bands but said the request was turned down as this would not be in line with the Olympic charter.

But Adams gave a different interpretation, saying the IOC and the Ukrainian delegation had met informally on Wednesday "and reached a conclusion" that the athletes would not wear the black bands and other forms of remembrance would be used.

The Ukrainian Committee said Thursday that black ribbons had however been pinned onto Ukrainian flags in the Olympic Village

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