Pavlo Kordiyaka log-presses at the 2022 World’s Strongest Man. / Instagram
Ukraine has a proud history of strength—on battlefields and in sports. Its strongest citizens have excelled in the World’s Strongest Man. In 2004, Vasyl Virastyuk, now a member of the Ukrainian parliament, won the World’s Strongest Man. In 2020, Oleksiy Novikov became the second Ukrainian World’s Strongest Man. And last year, Ukraine sent two competitors to the WSM: Novikov (who finished third in the finals) and Pavlo Kordiyaka (who finished third in his heat). Both have been selected again to compete in this year’s World’s Strongest Man on April 19-23 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The 27-year-old Kordiyaka lives in Lviv, near the border with Poland, which is regularly shelled with missiles. He recently spoke with The U.S. Sun about strength training in a warzone as his country fights off Russia’s invasion.
Russian forces have been targeting powerplants with missiles, so electricity in Lviv is frequently down. “We have four hours when it is on, then four hours possible it’s off,” Kordiyaka told The Sun. “And the gym where I train, I have [a] generator also, but it’s for lighting. So, the [heat] is off. Shower is cold water. So just take some warm clothes, and let’s go.”
“We had a lot of the time three, four air sirens,” Pavlo Kordiyaka said of the missile attacks. “The last was maybe two days ago. They’re trying to hit our power plants, our critical infrastructure buildings, and sometimes they’re just hitting residential areas.”
The strongman said of sticking to his training regime in such conditions: “It’s not so hard training without electricity. If you have a goal, if you have ambitions, and motivation, it’s not a problem.”
UKRAINIAN STRONGMAN AMBASSADORS
Since Russia invaded its neighbor last February, it’s estimated that more 42,000 Ukrainians have been killed, including more than 7000 civilians; and more than 14 million citizens have been displaced. Kordiyaka’s father, brother-in-law, and many friends are now in the military fighting, and friends of his have been killed in battle.
For now, Pavlo Kordiyaka and Oleksiy Novikov represent Ukraine around the world, drawing attention to their country’s plight. “My job now, is to represent my country, represent Ukraine, in the world, and talking to the whole world [about] what happened,” Kordiyaka said. “Because a lot of people maybe forgot what happened. And we need support. We need to talk about that. Maybe some people [are] tired [of hearing] about the situation, about the war, but it’s our reality. We live in war all day.”
Koriyaka stays active on Instagram. “It’s very helpful, and I can say it’s motivation for me, because these guys texting are spending [their] time to text with me, to watch my competition, to support me. They text comments, on my pages and Giants Live, World’s Strongest Man. They’re watching. They’re buying pay-per-view; it also helps. It’s important for me. I appreciate it.”
He’s more thankful for the Western military support Ukraine has received and continues to receive. “You know [the] Russian Army is the second [largest] army of the world. You know the population of Russia and Ukraine, and the difference between the sizes of our countries is a huge difference. And the reason why we [are] still talking, and the reason why I can represent Ukraine, is only our armed forces and support from the U.K., U.S.A, and Europe.”
STRONGER MENTAL HEALTH
Pavlo Kordiyaka admits to suffering from insomnia, anxiety, and panic attacks living in Ukraine during wartime. But his training aids his mental health. “My training, it’s something that helps me stay in focus, change my mind. It’s two or three hours when I don’t think about war,” he said. Kordiyaka believes everyone has “their own battlefield.” “For me, it’s my training, my gym, my competition, and I’m trying to do my best all the time. This thing also pushes me up.”