Mariya Ryemyen misses her home in Eastern Ukraine, the city where she was raised and grew to love running, the place from which she catapulted onto the world stage and the people who shaped her into the competitor she is today.
But the Olympian finds purpose, too, in her new daily routine as the athletic director of Northeast Philadelphia’s KleinLife, a Jewish community center that has been around for more than 40 years and has come to serve thousands of members.
When Ryemyen was offered the job this fall, the 32-year-old was already balancing new motherhood and training for the 2020 Olympics. But she said she couldn’t say no.
“I thought it would be a perfect place to share my experience and knowledge with people,” she said. “We’re doing really, really nice cool classes for adults. Some swimming, soccer, a lot of things.”
Ryemyen didn’t immigrate to the U.S. just for the job. Her husband, Oleksandr Tomakh, a soccer player she met, fittingly, in a sports training facility, encouraged her to move to the area after the 2012 London Olympics. He told her there would be more athletic opportunities here, she said.
So, after she and her teammates set a national record for Ukraine and took home the bronze medal in the 4x100-meter relay in London, the couple moved to the U.S. and eventually settled down in Churchville, Bucks County, where they are now raising an 18-month old son, Alexander. Tomakh played soccer until last year, when he started classes at Bucks County Community College.
Today, on the Kleinlife campus at 10100 Jamison Ave. in the Northeast, Ryemyen oversees athletic programming that includes basketball, gymnastics, softball and indoor soccer.
Traditionally, Kleinlife has helped immigrants of all backgrounds adjust to life in the U.S. and offered a robust array of service for seniors. They deliver meals to the homebound, offer adult exercise and history classes, and provide other socialization opportunities for independent seniors.
Ryemyen said she hopes to continue to improve those offerings and add a physical conditioning program for children.
“I want to share my experiences with kids, too,” Ryemyen said, to show them “you can be sportsmen.”
Ryemyen has many experiences to share. Aside from the London Olympics, she’s also competed in several world and European championships. Her personal best times are 7.15 seconds in the indoor 60-meter run and 11.27 in the 100.
She’s come a long way since a physical education teacher encouraged her to pursue competitive running when she was a teenager.