Ukrainian female athlete trains for IDF battles instead of Olympics

“I still love Ukraine” she says. “But now Israel is my country,” Zolganov told Israel Hayom.

By World Israel News Staff 

While many athletes are practicing around the clock for the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, a young Ukrainian woman who could have been representing her country is instead involved in a different kind of training altogether, reports Israel Hayom.

Yana Volganov opted to skip the Olympics in favor of immigrating to Israel and serving in the IDF.

Sport climbing is an event that is to be held in the Summer Olympics at the Tokyo Games, notes the organizing committee.

Volganov has been climbing since her childhood, reports Israel Hayom. “I’ve been involved in organized sport since the age of four,” she is quoted as saying.

“All of my life has been competition, training, and healthy eating,” she adds.

At the age of 17, she was European champion in climbing, says the newspaper.

At the age of 20, even as she appeared to be on her way to the Olympics, she then went through a dramatic change in her life, according to the report.

Volganov says that she received a phone call to inform her that because she is “half-Jewish,” she was eligible to join a Birthright trip to Israel.

“I didn’t know anything about Israel,” Volganov told Israel Hayom, adding however, that “when I saw the country, I said ‘wow, this is where I want to live.'”

But back in Ukraine, they weren’t giving up on their star athlete, she says, explaining that they told her that they were leaving a spot open for her on the Olympic team.

“It was really hard for me,” she says. “I cried, but I knew that I wanted to live in Israel.”

And, indeed, at the age of 22, Volganov launched her Israeli military career. She learned Hebrew and, after doing so, began serving in the artillery corps.

She currently serves in a unit that operates an MLRS-Multiple Launch Rocket System, says Israel Hayom.

She lives with her parents in Rishon LeZion, south of Tel Aviv. On weekends, Zolganov still climbs.

The new immigrant says that she has not given up on her dreams from her original country. She earned a BA in Economics in Ukraine and says that she plans to use that experience to open a sports-related business in the Jewish State.

In the artillery corps, she says, she has been involved in missions that she never envisioned as being part of her life experience.

“I feel that I am doing something important for the country; we are ready for battle,”  Zolganov told Israel Hayom.

“I still love Ukraine,” she says. “But now Israel is my country,” she asserts.