TOKYO — In American sports terms, the Paralympians of Ukraine constitute a small-market marvel, the Slavic equivalent of the Oakland Athletics.
At the Tokyo Paralympics, which ended Sunday, the Ukrainians finished fifth in the overall medal standings with 98, just six fewer than the United States. Each of the top four countries — China, Britain, Russia and the United States — had more than 220 athletes in Tokyo, while Ukraine brought 139.
“It’s a small country clearly punching above its weight,” said Craig Spence, the International Paralympic Committee’s lead spokesman.
The success has not been matched by Ukraine’s Olympians, who were 16th in the Tokyo overall medal standings last month. They won one gold medal, four fewer than Maksym Krypak, whose seven medals in swimming — five gold, plus one silver and one bronze — made him the most decorated athlete of the Tokyo Paralympics.
Ukraine has been one of the top six countries in the medal count at nine consecutive Paralympic Games, summer and winter, despite consistently being ranked among the poorest countries in Europe and cited by the United Nations as a difficult home for people with disabilities.
That athletic success has been virtually uninterrupted in recent years, despite Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, which effectively cut Ukraine’s Paralympic contenders off from their high-performance training center on the Black Sea. Technically, Ukraine remained the owner of the center, but Valerii…