Paralympics bronze-medallist Sharad Kumar is closely tracking the Russian military operation in Ukraine as he is worried about the safety of his coach Nikitin Yevhen and distressed after being told that the area next to an apartment that was his home during a lengthy training stint there has been bombed.
Yevhen is based in Kharkiv, the second largest city of Ukraine and around 500km from capital Kyiv. Kumar trained under Yevhen in Kharkiv from 2017 till just before winning a high jump bronze in Tokyo Paralympics last year.
"I have been in constant touch with the family of my coach the whole day, as well as with other friends at the institute where I studied for a few years there," Kumar told PTI. "When I spoke to my coach in the morning, he told me there were bombings in the city. I heard everybody in his family crying and I was feeling so terrible and helpless. He (coach) told me the whole family will be going down to the underground garage."
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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday announced the launch of a military operation in eastern Ukraine despite global condemnation and appeals for peace. Yevhen was earlier in India as a Sports Authority of India coach.
The 29-year-old Kumar again spoke to Yevhen's daughter in the evening and said the family was in a state of shock and did not know what to do.
"I communicated with them through Whatsapp. They are not being able to come to terms with the terrible developments. There has been tension (between Russia and Ukraine) even when I was there but they never imagined that their city could be bombed like this."
Kumar said his friends at the Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute, where he studied international business management, told him that bomb fell near the apartment where he stayed during training. "My friends told me there was bombing next to the apartment where I stayed. I could not gather information about any casualties. My apartment was very close to the Army cantonment there. So, it must have happened.
"It's giving chills to me imagining how the actual place where I stayed could have been impacted. It is a terrible feeling and crazy." Kumar is still planning to go to Kharkiv for training under Yevhen in June.
"By that time, I think the situation will be alright. So, the plan to train there is still on." Earlier, Kumar tweeted: "Just spoke to my coach in Ukraine Kharkiv, he is worried, he can hear bombing from his room, he is planning to move to his garage underground," Kumar tweeted.
Kumar, who hails from Bihar and suffered a paralysis in his left leg due to spurious polio medication during a local eradication drive, is a double Asian Para Games (2014 and 2018) high jump champion and world silver medallist (2019). He holds a master's degree in international relations from Delhi's Jawaharlal nehru University.
Last year in September, Kumar was diagnosed with heart inflammation and had to be admitted to the AIIMS here for a few days after complaining of chest congestion.