Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dima: A rider without a state

I tweeted about Dymtro 'Dima' Grabovskyy last month. The guy fascinates me. A Ukranian whose parents have lived in Israel for nearly 2 decades. Grabovskyy stayed in Ukraine so that he could finish his studies and have a strong cycling network as he was one of the strongest juniors in Europe. He graduated to the U23 ranks and balanced the road and track.

Dima in his adopted Israel home

In 2005 at just 19, he finished 2nd in the World U23 TT and soloed away for the World U23 RR win. In 2006, he moved to Italy and was on a rampage. He won the Giro della Regioni and was 5 seconds away from winning the GiroBio. After winning the U23 TT at the European Championships, he got a trainee spot with Quick Step and joined the team for two years.

It was around this time that Grabovskyy developed a drinking problem. His results were not coming as easy as they had in the U23 ranks. He was coming home from training and getting plastered with vodka down on the seaside. He survived two incidents of alcohol poisoning but Quick Step cut ties with him after 2008. Grabovskyy returned to his U23 DS Luca Scinto at ISD-Neri but his 2009 season was erratic.

The team wasn't going to renew him until February 2010 after he seemingly made an about face. He was flying in Langkawi where he was 3rd on one stage and his leader Jose Rujano won the race. Grabovskyy was on the attack constantly in Tirreno-Adriatico and won the KOM jersey when it was all said and done. He managed 11th overall in the Tour of Turkey but missed out on selection for the Giro d'Italia. He only finished one race the rest of the season, which was the Volta a Portugal. He was on ISD-Lampre's roster for 2011 but he never started a race. He didn't race another UCI race for another five years until this year's GP of Minsk.

At a 2011 training camp for the Ukrainian National Team for the London 2012 Olympics, it is rumored that Grabovskyy and other teammates tested positive for unspecified banned substances. This has been contested by some Israeli officials but it was shown that there was a letter from the Ukrainian Federation that there was a suspension from March 11th of 2011 to March 11 of 2013 but no reason was specifically listed.

Grabovskyy didn't surface until 2013 when he showed up in Israel. His parents have been living there for a long time and with his life in limbo, Dima made the move to the country, specifically the city of Arad, and made it clear he was going to pursue Israeli citizenship. One issue here is that Grabovskyy isn't Jewish. While Jews get automatic citizenship to Israel, it is a bit more complicated for others. Grabovskyy wasn't able to work since he wasn't a citizen but he began to race once again. Instantly, he was head and shoulders ahead of the rest. He won the Apple Race and finished 1st in the Israel National RR and TT but didn't win the championship as he was a non-citizen.

In 2014, he switched to doing triathlon and in January of this year, Grabovskyy finished 3rd overall in the Israman Half Ironman after a very strong bike leg and just 7 minutes off the winner. Grabovskyy hasn't given up on the road as he was best in the Israel TT (again not the champion since he isn't a citizen still) and was 5th in the RR. For the first time in a UCI race in 5 years, Grabovskyy raced last weekend in Belarus with his Dynamo Racing team under an Israeli Federation license and finished 33rd and 11th in two one day events.

Dima Grabovskyy is still not an Israeli citizen. He could fall under the naturalization law this year but that decision is still left up to the Minister of the Interior. He is still pursuing Israel's first Olympic birth in cycling for the upcoming Rio 2016 Games.

It seems trivial to care so much about a rider whose best professional results was the mountains classification of the 2010 Tirreno-Adriatico but this is a case of what could have been. Grabovskyy was just so strong in the U23 ranks that he could have been a rider to reckon with for the next decade to come. Yet, he was another case of a developing rider not being handled properly and the situation blew up. He has had problems and has been away. Yet if his name come across a result sheet, I still wonder about him.

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