“My first memory of Dmytro was at the 2014 world championships in Amsterdam,” recalls British Olympic silver medallist Jack Beaumont.
“Dmytro was racing in the Ukrainian quadruple scull against our British crew. Dmytro's crew won by 0.09 of a second over the British team.
“From then on, he was kind of the thorn in my side.”
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Beaumont is referring to the Ukrainian rower and former world and European champion Dmytro Mikhay - but does not speak of his rival with malice, rather fondness.
The two men may have spent nearly a decade duking it out on the water, but a friendship also blossomed over time.
Such was the bond between the two men, when the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces began in February, the well-being of Mikhay was the first thing on Beaumont’s mind.
On the latest episode of Power of Sport, Beaumont details his concern for his friend at the start of the conflict.
“There was news going on about Russian forces building up around the borders of Ukraine,” he says. “And I remember sending Dmytro a text saying ‘I hope you guys are okay, it looks a bit scary’, and then I remember waking up one morning to this news that through the night Russia had completely gone in and I just remember feeling so worried for them.”
Mikhay himself was not in Ukraine at the time but news of the outbreak of war naturally brought on feelings of fear, particularly with his wife Dasha still in the country.
“I was asleep and my roommate Vlad woke me up with the words ‘it has started.’” He recalls. “I didn’t understand him at first, and my question was, ‘what has started?’ And he said, ‘we’re at war.’
“I was in Turkey on a camp with the national rowing team. The first thing I did was to call my wife, I didn’t know whether to ask her if everything was fine. Later she realised that we had been invaded."
Aware of the terrible situation his friend was facing, Beaumont had to act, and helped Mikhay and his wife escape the war zone and relocate to Henley-on-Thames in England back in April.
As one of the rowing hubs of the UK, the pair now train together on the River Thames, but more importantly, beyond sport, Beaumont has provided an environment for Mikhay and his family to try to start rebuilding their lives.
“I knew that if he was to go home, he would not be able to leave again,” said the Brit. “If there was anything that we could do to help, we were of course going to do it.”
An emotional Mikhay could not be more grateful for Beaumont’s compassion and intervention in helping them escape the conflict.
“Thanks to Jack and his good will, my wife Dasha and I are now safe here. Thanks to him we can live and train here and look forward to the future.”
He added: “When you watch what is happening now in Ukraine, how people are dying, how buildings and cities are being destroyed, how much people suffer, how many children are dying in this idiocy. There is no explanation to what is going on there. It cannot be justified.
“I miss my loved ones, my friends, my favourite places, a peaceful life. I miss stability and safety. That’s what I miss. I yearn for insignificant problems compared to what is happening currently. But thanks to Jack, and only him, my wife and I are here now.”
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The latest episode of The Power of Sport is available to watch on Eurosport, discovery+ and Eurosport’s digital platforms.
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