SOCHI, Russia — This has been a tough week for the Ukrainian athletes at the Sochi Olympics.
Sports have seemed far less important amid reports of bloody clashes between the government and opposition demonstrators back home.
So Valj Semerenko could be forgiven for crying on the podium as she and her teammates received gold medals for their upset victory in the 4x6K biathlon relay Friday night.
"I tried to calm down and was trying to hide it behind my skis," she said. "They were tears of happiness, not only mine, but of the whole country, our team."
Two decades had passed since Ukraine's only other winter gold, by Oksana Baiul in women's figure skating at the 1994 Lillehammer Games.
Earlier in the week, skier Bogdana Matsotska withdrew from her best event — the slalom —saying she could not compete while her countrymen were dying.
Sergey Bubka, the former pole vaulter who is now a national team official and influential member of the International Olympic Committee, met with other athletes to encourage them to stay.
"We discussed about [making] a statement to the nation," he said. "We needed this moment."
Favored Norway finished third, with Russia earning silver. Ann Kristin Aafedt Flatland of Norway said of Ukraine: "Given all the events happening in their country, I'm very happy for them."
The victory came shortly after news that President Viktor Yanukovich had reached a peace deal with opposition leaders calling for early presidential elections and the formation of a coalition government.
Olena Pidhrushna, a relay team member whose husband serves as an opposition member in Ukraine's parliament, said he wanted her to focus on racing.
"I can only give great thanks to him for trying to protect me from everything that is happening at home," she said, adding: "If nobody objects, we will dedicate this victory to Ukraine."
Curling: Canada made it two for two when the men did what the women did a day earlier: win the gold medal. It was a rather one-sided affair as Canada won, 9-3, over Britain
It was the third straight gold for the Canadian men and also the largest margin of victory in a gold-medal game. In fact, the Brits conceded with two ends left to play.