Aussie athlete's beautiful act after Ukrainian rival wins gold

Eleanor Patterson, pictured here with blue and yellow nails as Yaroslava Mahuchikh won gold.
Eleanor Patterson painted her nails blue and yellow as Yaroslava Mahuchikh won gold. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)

Eleanor Patterson has paid a beautiful tribute to Ukrainian gold medallist Yaroslava Mahuchikh after the Aussie high jumper won silver at the world indoor athletics championships in Belgrade.

Patterson took herself from a bronze to gold medal-winning position by recording her new national and Commonwealth indoor mark of 2.00 metres at the second attempt in Saturday's final.

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It added a centimetre to the record she had already set in February in Slovakia and put her on course to become the first Australian woman ever to win a field event title in the 37-year history of the championships.

But the 20-year-old Mahuchikh, who recently fled Ukraine after Russia's invasion, responded with a first-time clearance of 2.02m - the best jump in the world in 2022.

Patterson, who wore blue and yellow paint on her fingernails throughout the event, paid tribute to Mahuchikh afterwards.

The 20-year-old champion had been forced to flee her war-torn home in Dnipro and had sheltered in a cellar before travelling nearly 2000km over three days by car to reach Serbia.

It was an extraordinary journey that left Patterson in awe.

"It felt like a special competition out there," explained Patterson.

"The hardships the Ukrainian athletes have gone through, no-one deserves to go through.

Yaroslava Mahuchikh, pictured here after winning the high jump final at the World Athletics Indoor Championships.
Yaroslava Mahuchikh celebrates after winning the high jump final at the World Athletics Indoor Championships. (Photo by ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP via Getty Images)

"The journey they've gone on just to get here is incredible. There's nothing I can do to change the situation (in Ukraine) but I feel for them hugely.

"I'm incredibly proud of Yaroslava and what's she's been able to do here - amazing.

"Obviously, I was somewhere safe and didn't have those threats of bombs and all those kind of things.

"So to see them here and performing so well was a really emotional moment.

"You're out there competing but you can't help but have such respect for all the Ukrainians here, my heart goes out to them that's for sure.

"I painted my nails blue and yellow because I wanted to show them some support!"

Eleanor Patterson, Yaroslava Mahuchikh and Nadezhda Dubovitskaya, pictured here on the podium after the women's high jump final.
Eleanor Patterson, Yaroslava Mahuchikh and Nadezhda Dubovitskaya pose on the podium after the women's high jump final. (Photo by PEDJA MILOSAVLJEVIC/AFP via Getty Images)

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Mahuchikh, the Olympic bronze medallist, explained in an interview with the BBC how much the win meant to her.

"It was very important for me, my family, my country," she said.

"I don't think about competition, training. For me, coming here was difficult - three days by car - and to jump here was so difficult psychologically because my heart remains in my country.

"It's so difficult but I think I've done very well for my country because I protect my country on the track. I think it's a very important thing for my country."

Patterson said of her performance: "I'm incredibly proud of myself.

"I probably won't take this medal off from around my neck. Sleep with it, maybe!

"To finally jump two metres, I'm so proud. I started little athletics as an eight-year-old and I was probably about 13 dreaming of the Olympics and the two metres barrier. I guess the dream started there.

"I'm really excited for what the future holds now. It's been a beautiful journey."

with AAP

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