Paralympic glory and everyday problems at home: Heroes in Rio, Ukraine's disabled struggle at home - AFP

11:02 Sep. 23, 2016

Heroes in Rio, Ukraine's disabled struggle at home - AFP

Ukrainian Paralympic medalists are welcomed back home (UNIAN photo)

From basic access ramps to equal opportunities, these are frequently missing as Ukraine still struggles to make progress despite its recent shift towards the West

A group of children stand by a swimming pool in Kyiv clutching their goggles and dreaming of emulating the heroes they eagerly just watched scoop medals at the Paralympic Games in Rio.

Ukraine's team finished in a surprising third place in Brazil ahead of giants like the United States and Germany -- a stunning result for the ex-Soviet nation where disabled people often feel forgotten.

"What is your biggest dream?", coach Raisa Lagutenko demands of the children, who have conditions ranging from cerebral palsy to stunted growth.

"To become a Paralympic medallist", they shout back.

Lagutenko has been training disabled kids for over a decade and she insists the dire situation they once faced in Ukraine is improving.

"Ten years ago, this pool was the only one available for people with special needs," said Lagutenko, who had three of her prodigies competing in Rio.

"The situation is getting better -- new sports clubs are being built and the Paralympics were on TV, which makes society more perceptive to people with disabilities."

But despite some progress and the glow of Paralympic glory, most agree that Ukraine still has a long way to go.

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