Four Ukrainian athletes competing at this week’s International Canoe Federation Canoe Sprint Super Cup in Oklahoma were honoured this week by event organisers.

A special ceremony was held at Oklahoma City’s Riversport venue to mark Ukraine’s Independence Day. The athletes were presented with gifts and sunflowers, the nation’s national flower, and the boathouse district was lit up in the colours of the Ukraine flag.

Ukraine canoe paddler Pavlo Altukhov told the audience of the challenges athletes from his country have been facing this year.

“It’s very hard when you are not in Ukraine but your family is in Ukraine,” Altukhov said.

“It’s easier when you are all together, really, but when you go, you feel safety. But who knows if Ukraine is not safe, it’s very hard in your mind.”

Joining Altukhov in Oklahoma this weekend will be Tokyo Olympic C2 500 silver medalists Liudmyla Luzan and Anastasiia Chetverikova, and fellow men’s C1 paddler Andrii Rybachok.

Riversport Foundation executive director Mike Knopp said it was a privilege to host the athletes from Ukraine.

“We wanted to definitely step up and bring this event back and welcome back these incredible athletes from Ukraine to Oklahoma City,” Mr Knopp said.

“We want to say that our hearts in Oklahoma City are with you. It’s an honour to have you and thanks you to all four of you for joining us.”

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