You can’t deny Ivan Rudyi willpower. The Ukrainian, team captain of the Invictus team of his country, was told by the doctors that he couldn’t use his right hand anymore. And look at him now: at the Invictus Games he joins the powerlift. “That announcement in the hospital made that I had to prove that I could physically become as strong again as I wanted, and not as weak as someone else predicted.”
By Edward Swier
Make no mistake, Ivan Rudyi is delighted with the doctors who patched him up after he was severely injured in a mortar attack in Lugansk on 7 August 2014. Like many colleagues, he was hit by shrapnel. The doctors at Kharkov’s military hospital did their utmost, but were unable to help everyone at the same time. And so they ‘sorted’. I found myself lying in the corridor with those who had less chance of surviving and had to wait for their turn. I heard them say: ‘that one there is going to be a difficult case. It probably won’t last long. That was the sign for me to get their attention. Hey, guys, I’m lying here. “I’m alive.
The operation was pretty intense. Due to the lack of time and resources Rudyi was treated without anaesthesia. While one doctor pulled out the shrapnel, another doctor held him. “I can’t do much more for you than hold your hand. These are the moments, however intense, that he never forgets, and that Ivan now wants to share with the world.
The Invictus Games offer him that stage. ,,I notice that the attention for the event is increasing in our country. And that with it, the attention for the physical and mental situation of veterans is also growing. This is very important. Friends understand your stories better and better.” It also leads to new insights. I’ll give just one small example: people more often keep a door open for someone in a wheelchair. I dream, for my buddies, that one day will come without thresholds. Figuratively and literally. That you can enter any building in Kyiv when you are in a wheelchair, that there are no more obstacles anywhere. “That would be wonderful.
For himself, the Invictus Games were also an eye-opener. “I used to do a lot of sports. But after I was injured, I didn’t go. I didn’t dare go to the gym. It was mentally tough, I knew it would never be like it used to be. That it was unlikely that I would ever get back in good shape. But, when I saw a programme on television about Ukraine’s participation in the Invictus Games of 2017, something changed me. I saw guys there who were in much worse shape than me, who were much more injured. And I saw how, thanks to sport, they were brought back to life, that they were not ashamed to go to the gym. “Then I also knew that nothing was impossible.
To be able to play sports again Rudyi had to travel a long way. His right hand didn’t cooperate at first. The doctors told him that he wouldn’t be able to lift a pack of sugar. “Learn everything with the left. He refused to accept it. Friends helped him. “They gave me the electric guitar I always wanted. That’s how I started using my hand again. I tried to play, but at first I couldn’t, of course. It drove me crazy. But then I got better at it, handier. And now what? Now my arm isn’t there anymore for decoration, but I can use it again.
After he also had surgery on his knee, Ivan Rudyi really picked up the sport again. “With the help of my wife. “She stimulated me, gave me an extra push once in a while. By now he’s quite a fanatic. “I feel a lot better. “Always go with a big smile. Powerlifting is his big preference. “I’ve learned it step by step. That was pretty tough, but I always thought it had to be possible. And now I’m hoping I can do it for the rest of my life.
Recently he also got into a wheelchair, for the very first basketball practice of his life. “The American Invictus team visited us and showed us the way. We didn’t have wheelchairs, we didn’t know the rules. And they’re so experienced at it, they helped us enormously. That was a great experience. It is wonderful to be able to participate in the wheelchair basketball at the Invictus Games later on. There’s nothing better than being able to represent your country as a team”.
He himself will lead the way, literally and figuratively. “Whether I win gold or not, I don’t care. Above all, I want to show that sports can change your life. I’m coming out the door again, I want others to do the same. “Sport has given me my life back. He also carries that message as team captain. “I think that’s a great honour, and it was a huge surprise for me, too. As far as I’m concerned, I’m one of the guys, no different or better than the rest. But for me it’s the motivation to train harder and above all to motivate others to make the best of it”.
Ukraine will send roughly 20 athletes to The Hague. They will appear at the start well prepared. Ivan Rudyi is looking forward to the visit to the Netherlands, The Hague and surroundings. “My wife and I had planned to go to Amsterdam years ago, for my injuries. We wanted to see that city one day. Now I’m sure I’ll take advantage of that opportunity.”