CHULA VISTA, Calif. — As the war in Ukraine rages on, dozens of its top athletes are now here in San Diego.
Members of the Ukrainian Athletic Federation are being hosted by the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center as they get ready for competition on the world stage.
Thirty-seven athletes and coaches from Ukraine began arriving in the South Bay late last month to prepare for the World Athletics Championship in Oregon, intense training for these athletes that is being overshadowed by the ongoing war in their homeland.
These athletes and their coaches said they have felt a tremendous amount of local support.
"Thank God we have such good friends like you, like American people who support us in our fight, and we understand that we are not alone," said Ukrainian State Coach Oleskii Serdiuchenko.
Anna Ryzhykova, who competes in the 400-meter hurdle and on the relay team, said that up until this point, she and her fellow athletes had been separated by the war, forced to train in separate locations.
"Here we are all together, and we feel like a family," she told CBS 8.
Still, Ryzhykova said that it has been difficult to concentrate as war rages back home.
"It is really hard mentally, because 24 hours per day I am worried about my family, my friends who are in Ukraine now," she added.
"I try to do my best," said Ukrainian sprinter Anastasia Bryzgina, who is from Lugansk in eastern Ukraine. Her region has now been occupied by Russian forces, including her family's home there.
"It is really disgusting because these strangers, these people.. come to your house and live there without any rules," she said.
Bryzgina said that she also supports the ban imposed on Russian athletes by World Athletics.
"I honestly wish that they feel nobody wants to compete with people who support the war... who support killing children," she told CBS 8.
As they focus on the competition here in the U.S., these athletes pray for peace back home.
"We want to go back to our country and just live safe," Ryzhykova said, "to have our lives back."
The 2022 World Athletics Championships are set to get underway next week in Eugene, Oregon. For more information, click here.
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