Ukraine skaters' six-day trip to worlds, 'fighting for our country'
Ukraine figure skaters Sofiia Holichenko and Artem Darenskyi, who travelled six days to reach the world championships in France, said Wednesday they undertook the exhausting trip "to show that Ukrainian athletes are fighting for their country".
"We qualified for the World Championships, we wanted to come here to show the world that Ukrainian athletes are fighting, that we are there for our country and that we are strong," said 20-year-old Darenskyi.
From Dnipro in the east of Ukraine, "it was a very complicated trip, almost six days," explained Holichenko, just 17, and whose family live in the capital, Kyiv.
"We first went to Romania, then to Italy, and from Italy to Poland, and then here. We really felt a lot of support," added the teenager whose father and many friends "are with the army".
Holichenko and Darenskyi were greeted by a standing ovation from the Montpellier crowd on Wednesday as they successfully negotiated the short programme.
Earlier, a minute of applause was dedicated to Ukraine during the short opening ceremony.
Despite qualifying for the free programme, scheduled for Thursday evening, Holichenko and Darenskyi decided not to take any further part.
"We decided with our coach to withdraw from the free programme," said Holichenko.
"We are not prepared to skate it because we haven't trained since the Olympics. We took a short break afterwards, and then the war started."
The Ukrainian pair already know that they will not be able to return to Dnipro after the world championship.
Instead, they will go to the Polish city of Torun where a local club has offered to host them.