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French Open: Swiatek uses victory speech to support Ukraine

Iga Swiatek used her French Open victory speech to urge Ukraine to “stay strong”, days after her opponent Coco Gauff called for an end to gun violence.

The pair are among the ‘Generation Z’ athletes – those born between 1997 and 2010 – who are using their platform to speak out about important societal issues.

World number one Swiatek has worn a ribbon in the colours of the Ukrainian flag throughout the tournament and said in a recent BBC Sport column she wanted to “remind people there is still a war going on” following the invasion by Russia.

On Saturday, clutching the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen after winning her second Grand Slam title, the 21-year-old Pole chose one of her sport’s biggest platforms to do that again.

“I also wanted to say something to Ukraine, to stay strong, because the war is still there,” Swiatek said as she closed out her speech in front of 15,000 people on Court Philippe Chatrier – and millions more across the world on television and social media.

“Since it started I was hoping, when I play the next tournament, that the situation will be better. I will still have hope.”

Swiatek’s words were welcomed by her opponent in Saturday’s final – 18-year-old Coco Gauff – who had called for an end to gun crime herself two days earlier.

The American teenager wrote the message for peace on a television camera after winning her semi-final and discussed the issue more in her post-match news conference.

“I think it’s wonderful Iga brought that up in her speech,” Gauff added after the 6-1 6-3 defeat in her first Grand Slam singles final.

“I mean, there is so much emotion going on during the awards ceremony, so for her to bring that up, I thought that was really nice and thoughtful.

“In general, I think using sports as a platform is important. I wouldn’t say anything if I didn’t think it was going to influence anybody.”

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