BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Today marks the first day of the World Games competitions and athletes are patiently awaiting for their turn to fight for gold.

Athletes from all around the world are gathered right here in Birmingham to compete, but Ukraine’s participation has already captured the hearts of many.

An eruption of cheers filled the stands of Protective Stadium as Ukraine entered the opening ceremony. Emotions were high for several Ukraine athletes.

Ukrainian karate athlete and Olympic medalist Stanislav Horuna says he was inspired by the outpour of love and support from all who cheered for him and his teammates.

“When we came out on the stadium and when all the tribunes stood up, people cheered for us,” said Horuna. “That was amazing.”

Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, Horuna says he feels that all eyes are on their team. He hopes that he and his teammates represent Ukraine well.

“All eyes are on us, and we want to represent our country with dignity to show that we are strong no matter what is happening,” said Horuna.

This is Horuna’s second time competing in the World Games, as he also competed in the 2017 event in Wrocław, Poland and won gold. He feels honored to compete again and says he has truly enjoyed his time in America.

“These are the good memories from here,” said Horuna. “We are lucky that we have such an opportunity to stay here for two weeks, and we are happy to be here.”

Horuna will compete on Saturday, but other Ukrainian athletes will continue to represent their county in other sporting events throughout the rest of the games.