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Ukranian-born Gladkov grappling with issues away from the mat

THEY say you should never mix politics and sport.

Alex Gladkov
Alex Gladkov

But Ukrainian-born wrestler Alex Gladkov has had little option but to do so.

His selection for Scotland's Commonwealth Games team has been overshadowed by family concerns arising from the current political tensions in his homeland.

The 28-year-old, originally from Lugansk in troubled eastern Ukraine - and brought up in Germany where his mother still lives - is understandably worried as his grandfather Leonid remains in the country under the growing threat of invasion by Russian. "It's a very worrying time right now," Gladkov says. "The situation is quite dangerous and I speak with my grandfather every day as I have always been quite close to him.

"I wouldn't say he's stressed or concerned that Ukrainian soldiers are going to go around attacking people, as daily life goes on. But you wouldn't want to be around the areas where the action is taking place.

"I think the main danger is around the government buildings and now we have a situation where Ukrainian soldiers need to fight Ukrainian people and that's a difficult situation. I do not agree with the actions which have been taking place in Kiev because, initially, it started as a student protest before developing into something horrible with different parties getting involved.

"Ethnically and mentally it's more or less the same people with slight differences. You have a border but you don't really feel a difference when you cross it as Russia more or less originated from Kiev and spread from there, so there's a lot of history, friendship and conflict.

"I went back last year and there are a lot of positive aspects although you can't ignore the poverty. But people manage and before the crisis it was more or less stable and people managed their daily lives."

Gladkov has been in Glasgow for the past eight years after his father was invited to become head coach of the Scottish team. Prior to that he competed for Germany but says he always had a desire to represent his adopted homeland, which he first visited in 2001, for a year, attending Queensferry High School.

"I more or less feel Scottish now," he admits. "I have a lot of Scottish friends and I am comfortable here. But I will always have my roots in my Russian ancestry and I have picked up things from every country, Ukraine, where I was born, Germany, where I spent most of my life, and now Scotland."

Gladkov experienced his first taste of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, but insists that he was not coerced into wrestling. "My dad said I could pick anything I liked, an artist, a musician, a politician, a lawyer, or a doctor," he said. "Whatever I chose just to do it right.

"I chose wrestling and I always strive to achieve the best results as they are the product of hard work that has been done properly.

"I enjoy a lot of other sports such as football. But I don't answer the question, 'who's your team?' when I'm in Glasgow!"

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