Austrian swimmers win medal after bus crash
BAKU, Azerbaijan — Austria won a synchronized swimming silver medal at the European Games on Monday, just four days after three members of the team were injured when they were hit by a bus.
The incident Thursday morning left three 15-year-old Austrian swimmers requiring treatment. Vanessa Sahinovic suffered severe spinal injuries that may leave her paralyzed.
The Austrians were forced to withdraw from the team event, but sisters Anna-Maria and Eirini-Maria Alexandri battled on to win a surprise silver in the duet competition, overtaking the favored Ukrainian and Spanish pairs in the final round.
“Of course this medal is for Vanessa,” said Eirini-Maria Alexandri. “It was very difficult but we had a lot of support from the Austrian Olympic Committee and all over the world.”
She added: “We had power in our minds.”
The sisters also dedicated their silver to another injured girl, Luna Pajer, who suffered a broken elbow and is recovering at home.
The third girl who was hurt, Verena Breit, has remained with the team, competing in the figures event despite a bruised thigh.
“She wanted (to compete) for Vanessa and for Luna,” Eirini-Maria Alexandri said.
The Alexandri sisters entered the medal ceremony to loud applause as they waved to the crowd. They celebrated together with their teammates, including Breit and a third Alexandri sister, Vasiliki-Pagona.
Russia’s Valeria Filenkova and Daria Kulagina won the pairs gold, while there was bronze for Ukraine’s Yana Narezhna and her partner Elyzaveta Yakhno, who comes from Donetsk, a city which has suffered badly during the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“Before competing we were really worried,” said Russia’s Filenkova.
She added that the Russians had been under pressure because their program had first been performed by Russia’s triple Olympic champions Svetlana Romashina and Natalya Ishchenko. “We didn’t want to let them down,” Filenkova said.