It was half-time on Sunday in the Ukrainian Premier League football match between Dynamo Kyiv and FC Illichivets Mariupol, when the fans were treated to a special ceremony which saw one of the country’s leading sports stars say her farewell.
Natalia Dobrynska, the brilliant Ukrainian who won Olympic heptathlon gold in Beijing in 2008, has announced her retirement.
The venue where she broke the news could not have been more fitting.
“Here at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium, I was training and competing for many years and I set my first Ukrainian record,” said Dobrynska.
“That’s why it is very symbolic that I announce my retirement here.”
Serhii Hlushchenko, Ukraine’s first deputy minister of youth and sport, Ihor Hotsul, the president of the Ukrainian Athletic Federation and the Director General of Sports Arenas of Ukraine, Serhii Simak, were there as part of the farewell celebrations along with young athletes from a Kyiv sports school.
And though pole vault legend Sergey Bubka, the president of Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee, could not attend, he sent a message of congratulations via video link:
“I wish you every success. You are a very active woman; you are a member of the Athletes Commission of the federation, NOC and EOC. I am sure you (will) reach good results in this sphere too," Bubka said.
Dobrynska added: “It’s always very difficult for athletes to retire. You always think that you could do more. But I lost the will to fight, and didn’t have the desire to compete as strong as I did earlier in my career.”
Tall and powerful, Dobrynska, 31, is best remembered for her triumph in the Olympic Games heptathlon in Beijing with a personal best of 6733 points.
She also won the world indoor pentathlon title in 2012 in Istanbul and placed second at the European Athletics Championships in Barcelona in 2010, behind Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis.
Her first time on the podium was in 2005 when she won bronze in the pentathlon at the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Madrid.
In Istanbul, her mental strength was at its greatest when she beat Ennis and broke the world indoor record with a score of 5013.
Unfortunately, just a few weeks later, her husband and coach Dmitry Polyakov died tragically of cancer.
Dobrynska will look to maintain a presence in Ukrainian sport.
“I would like to do something for the development of Ukrainian sports and be useful to my country,” she said.
“Recently I was elected as the vice-chair of the EOC Athletes Commission and it opens some prospects for me.”
She cannot wait for what is ahead and knows the time is right.
“Athletes often try to put off this moment,” added Dobrynska.
Now it’s time for me to start a new life. I am happy, because I will get to learn new things.
“I am sure that my new life will be as interesting as my sporting life.”