Alina Shukh is best known for her exploits as a heptathlete, her career highlights so far include her gold medals at the 2016 European Athletics U18 Championships and the 2017 European Athletics U20 Championships. Her lifetime best of 6396 points dates back to 2020.
Injury prevented her from qualifying for Tokyo Olympics Games last year and, for the same reason, Shukh wasn’t able to compete at the European Athletics Championships in Munich last month.
However, Alina was present in the Bavarian capital as the Ukrainian Athletic Federation asked her to be one of their representatives at the Young Leaders Forum which took place in conjunction with the European Athletics Championships, the first in-person edition of the Forum since 2018 owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
While she is still very motivated to return to competition, Alina also has big goals away from the track.
Alina wants to create a club system for athletics in Ukraine, emulating those in many western European countries, and has just created her own company that gives financial advice to athletes.
European Athletics spoke to Alina at the Young Leaders Forum about her interests and aspirations off the track.
What is your involvement in athletics now?
I’m still an athlete. I don’t have a formal position in athletics. I wanted to be a member of the Ukrainian Athletics Commission four years ago but I was too young to be part of it at that time. We have elections for this position again in the near future and I hope I’ll get a role.
However, wn our federation, we can work on some projects even if you don’t have a role in the federation.
How did you become a Young Leader?
My federation proposed my name because I can speak English and I’m active in Ukraine off the track. I was supposed to compete in Munich but I had an operation (earlier this summer) so they asked me to join the Forum.
It’s very difficult in our federation because only a few people speak English and for me was a very good experience because I wanted to know how the club system works in Europe. It was an ideal place for me to learn, and at the right moment.
What was the best experience you had at the Young Leaders Forum?
It was the second day of the Forum when we discussed the system in different countries and then we had to present our findings to other groups. I had the opportunity to discuss with people coming from different countries and I wanted to know a lot of things about their club systems, and they answered all my questions.
I now have their contacts so I know that I can ask them when I need more information. I think that this part of the Forum was the best for me but, of course, I enjoyed every moment.
Have you ever had any experience as a volunteer?
I usually help during some competitions; I’m good at English so I usually help the organisers and try to help them find solutions to various issues.
Now I’m working on another project; I’m helping athletes to get scholarships to study and train in the USA. It is not easy to keep training in Ukraine and be funded so I want to help these athletes to go to the USA to have the chance to train.
What are you taking back home from the Forum?
First of all: the energy. The energy to work, and then the knowledge of other sports systems. I read a lot of articles and books but it's not the same as talking with people.
I still have in mind a phrase that I heard and remembered. We were talking about the fact that in most of Europe most of the coaches are volunteers and when I asked why, someone answered:, "My club gave me a lot, I want to give it something back." It is comments like this which keep me working every day and gives me the strength to keep looking for solutions.
Do you think that this kind of project is important?
I think that the Young Leaders Forum is incredible. I always wanted to have connections between different people and you don’t have this connection in Ukraine.
It was the first time I heard about the Forum. It’s really important to have contacts and speak with other people. We can develop faster if we look at what other people have done right. We also had a lot of really good speakers and you can have the opportunity to talk with them. You feel like you can change a lot of things when you talk with them.
Where do you see yourself in athletics in 10 years?
Currently, I’m creating a company called SMART: Sport, Money, ART. It’s about financial education for athletes and branding education. I want it to be a huge company in my country that can provide financial advice and support to the clubs of my country. In 10 years’ time, I see myself working with European clubs.