The Ukraine Canoe Federation has thanked the international paddling community for the support it has provided since the country was invaded by Russia in February.

Federation vice-president Andriy Masliuk told the International Canoe Federation Congress in Pattaya on Thursday that Ukrainian athletes and their families would be forever grateful for the show of solidarity provided around the world.

Mr Masliuk said the strong statement from the ICF condemning the invasion, the tough measures taken against Russia and Belarus, and the generous offers of support from all over the world were helping his country deal with a terrible situation.

“The Ukraine Canoe Federation thanks all federations who accepted our teams for free, giving us an opportunity to perform, to ensure Ukraine is not broken on the battlefield or in the sports arena,” Mr Masliuk said.

ICF President Thomas Konietzko opened the 39th Congress with praise for the resilience shown by the global paddling family during challenging times, and expressed confidence canoeing will continue to grow in coming years.

Mr Konietzko, who took over as President one year ago, said the ICF had held 34 international events in 2022, and had set new benchmarks for online engagement and event viewing, and new standards for hosting events.

He said the ICF will continue to work to promote gender equity on and off the water, to make all paddle sports more sustainable, and to ensure the international canoe family remains united in the face of many global challenges.

IOC President Thomas Bach, in a video address, congratulated the ICF on an outstanding season, and highlighted the Canoe Slalom World Championships in Augsburg, where the sport celebrated the 50th anniversary of slalom’s Olympic debut.

President Bach was a special guest at the world championships, and said the event sent an important message that sport was back after the global pandemic.

ICF secretary general, Richard Pettit, told his first Congress he has faced a steep learning curve in the eight weeks since his appointment, but was excited about the road ahead.

“It’s been a difficult but progressive season,” Mr Pettit said.

“We have a huge opportunity in this room to look at how we can connect with every paddler on the planet. I want to share best practice among the community, so we can build a stronger future for the sport.

“We continually need to think how we can unite and extend support to the athletes. We need to remain relevant and consider how we can amplify our message.”

ICF Treasurer Luciano Buonfiglio told delegates the federation’s finances remained strong, despite global challenges, and that the ICF was well placed heading towards the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Two workshops were held on Thursday afternoon, tackling the issues of sustainability and development.

IOC Senior Sustainability Manager, Julie Duffus, told the gathering that global challenges are placing enormous pressure on sport at all levels.

“I have seen a massive change in sport in the past five years. Your sport is particularly involved in nature, sport organisations are looking at new ways they can operate and be more sustainable,” she said.

Congress also welcomed two new federations to the ICF, with Solomon Islands and Comoros both successfully applying to join. The ICF now has 171 member federations.

The ICF Congress will continue on Friday and Saturday.