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Ukrainian Gymnastics Facing Financial Crisis
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Ukraine's 2009 season is at risk due to a lack of funding, the president of the Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation announced Friday.

Budget cuts likely mean Ukraine's artistic and rhythmic gymnasts will be unable to participate in any World Cup events this year, president Viktor Korzh said during a press conference.

2008 World Cup Final gold medalist Alexander Vorobyov (Ukraine)

Ukraine's presence at the European Championships also is unsure, Korzh said.

The 2009 budget for Ukraine's Ministry of Family, Youth and Sports is 30 percent less than in 2008, directly affecting the funding for the Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation, Korzh said. The UGF's budget dropped from nearly $600,000 to approximately $350,000.

In 2008, Ukraine's artistic gymnasts won two medals at the European Championships, a bronze medal at the Olympic Games and a gold medal at the World Cup Final. Ukrainian rhythmic gymnastics was more competitive, culminating with Anna Bessonova's bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics.

"In those sports whose achievements are of the highest quality - winning the European Championships, a medal at the Olympic Games - it's not clear why the first to suffer is our support of Olympic artistic and rhythmic gymnastics," Korzh said.

Ukrainian gymnastics was dealt a blow in December when former women's head coach Oleg Ostapenko, who had been expected to return after eight years in Brazil, accepted the position of Russian junior coach.

Rhythmic coach Irina Deryugina, member of the Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation's executive committee, said the federation is broke.

"The gymnastics committee has no money for the month of March," she said. "Most athletes travel at their own expense or at the expense of their parents. You can already talk about canceling travel to the World Cups," she said.

Deryugina said there are problems with funding gymnastics and other sports schools in Kiev.

"It's not expensive. It will be more expensive when the children go outside and stay there," she said. "This is a direct challenge the city - to ensure our children's participation in sports. These (sports) schools really need the city."

Korzh said he is frustrated that gymnastics must share government funding with other sports such as ski jumping, where Ukraine has had little success.

"To understand the logic of the ministry is quite difficult. Gymnastics sports are now on the brink of extinction, and this species brings glory and respect to Ukraine," Korzh said.

The Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation has been at odds in recent months with former president Stella Zakharova over the funding for her annual Zakharova Cup, scheduled for March 7-8 in Kiev. Zakharova said her competition receives no funding from the Ukrainian Gymnastics Federation, while the federation insists the private and government funding the Zakharova Cup receives could instead go to other gymnastics competitions on its calendar.

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