ESPN’s Emmy award-winning sports news magazine E:60 profiled Maria Sharapova last week taking the three-time Grand Slam champ back home to Russia.
In the video feature, Sharapova visits her her birthplace in the Gomel region of Belarus which was just 100 miles from Chernobyl where a took place on August 26, 1986.
The ESPN promo reads, “She is the highest-paid female athlete in the world. She has won three Grand Slams, has her own fashion line, endorsement deals and a life of glamour in Los Angeles. But tennis superstar Maria Sharapova says her life would have been very different if the worst nuclear reactor explosion in history had never happened.”
Fearful of birth defects that could result from radioactive materials in the area, Sharapova’s parents fled to western Siberia and five months later in April of 1987, Maria was born.
“I’m a global ambassador for UNDP in Chernobyl-affected areas, and I made my visit to Belarus,” Sharapova said last month after her trip. “It’s one of the three affected areas, along with Ukraine and Russia. Belarus is where both of my parents were from before I was born. When Chernobyl hit in 1986, we fled to Russia because of Chernobyl. So if it wasn’t for that, I would probably be born in Belarus. I started working with the UNDP about three years ago. First I was kind of like the voice in bringing — you know, the voice that’s being brought to the regions in order to tell them that people around the world are very well aware of the accident and that it’s still affecting many lives. It’s something that happened so long ago, but in the beginning when I really began learning about it, I realized how everyone thought that happened in 1986, but it’s so long forgotten. When you say that there are so many affected families and kids in those regions, everyone is a little shocked and surprised.”
The story also chronicles Maria’s rise from Russia and into stardom. Sharapova’s father, Yuri, coach, Michael Joyce, and Martina Navratilova are interview by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols.
The full video feature is below if you haven’t already seen it:
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