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12-year-old Ukrainian Yana Stepanenko runs Boston Marathon 5K race on prosthetic legs – video

Sunday, 14 April 2024, 16:20
12-year-old Ukrainian Yana Stepanenko runs Boston Marathon 5K race on prosthetic legs – video
Yana, 12, ran the marathon to raise money for a sports-specific prosthesis for a serviceman named Oleksandr Riasnyi. Photo: Rehabilitation Center Nezlamni Ukraine/Facebook

A Ukrainian girl who lost both legs in a Russian missile strike on Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast, has run the 5K race at the world-renowned Boston Marathon on prosthetic legs.

"Yana Stepanenko, this girl made of steel who lost both legs following a Russian missile strike and ran all five kilometres of the Boston Marathon with a smile and love, is a representation of our powerful Ukraine and unbreakable nation," wrote marathon participant Iryna Kushakevych.

Yana was running to raise money for a sports-specific prosthesis for injured serviceman Oleksandr Riasnyi, who has also lost a limb. She wants him to be able to run again, just as she now can.

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The Nezlamni (Unbroken) National Rehabilitation Centre said: "Oleksandr Riasnyi has been serving since 2011. He served in both the ATO [the Anti-Terrorist Operation in Ukraine's Donbas in 2014-2018 – ed.] and the JFO [the Joint Forces Operation conducted in the occupied territories of Ukraine in 2018-2022]. When the full-scale conflict broke out, he went to defend his native Zaporizhzhia. He was wounded on the Zaporizhzhia front last September, losing a leg. 

He has now acquired a prosthetic from the Nezlamni Centre. He intends to return to the front whatever happens, and he also wants to run. It costs UAH 600,000 (about US$15,250), which Yana is now fundraising for."

Yana began training for the Boston 5K more than two months before the event. She trained four times a week: twice at the Nezlamni National Rehabilitation Centre and twice at the Dynamo stadium in Lviv, Ukrinform news agency reports.

"I've been through some terrible times, and I'm so glad I can now walk and run. Peter Harsch, a famous American prosthetist, gave me running prostheses, and I fell in love with running again. I’ll be running my first marathon in a week, but I have great recovery experts and coaches that work with me and push me," Yana said during an open training session on 4 April.

"My family all support me – my mum, brother, niece and sister. I feel a little scared before the 5K Boston Marathon, but I believe I'll succeed, and I want to be a role model for others."

 
The girl travelled 5 kilometres with a smile on her face
Photo: Rehabilitation Center Nezlamni Ukraine/Facebook

The young marathon runner and her family were injured on 8 April 2022, when Kramatorsk railway station was hit by a Russian missile. The Russians launched a Tochka-U missile loaded with cluster munitions on the station as over 4,000 people were waiting to be evacuated.

The attack killed 61 people and injured another 121. Yana's twin brother was the only member of the Stepanenko family to remain unharmed. Their mother lost one limb, while Yana lost both. 

The family was later evacuated to the United States, where they joined a prostheses programme.

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