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Russia’s Olympic chief downplays Russia’s scale of naturalizing foreign athletes

July 22, 2014, 19:22 UTC+3 MOSCOW
President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) Alexander Zhukov says Russia needs to rely on its own talented athletes
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President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) Alexander Zhukov

President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) Alexander Zhukov

© ITAR-TASS/Sergei Fadeichev

MOSCOW, July 22. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia will not be betting on foreign athletes by granting them national citizenship to achieve high results at international sports competitions, President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) Alexander Zhukov said on Tuesday.

The issue of naturalizing foreign athletes by granting them Russian citizenship came to media spotlight again over recent rumors that Brazilian football striker Francisco Wanderson, currently playing for Russia’s Krasnodar FC, and a number of Kenyan long-distance runners could be granted Russian citizenship to compete for the national team.

“We need to rely on our domestic athletes as we have a lot of talented young athletes,” Zhukov said at a news conference dedicated to the 2014 Summer Youth Olympic Games in China’s Nanjing on August 16-28.

“Of course, we had a couple of instances, like at the Olympics in Sochi, but they are not connected with the naturalization tendency,” Zhukov said. “It is obvious that the main hope is in our athletes.”

Hosting team Russia finished the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in February with the overall result of 33 won medals (13 gold, 11 silver and 9 bronze medals), surpassing its previous Winter Olympics record of 11 gold medals, set at the 1994 Winter Games in Norway’s Lillehammer.

US-born snowboarder Vic Wild and South Korea-born Viktor Ahn, who performed for the Russian national Olympic squad in Sochi, together brought the team five gold medals, accounting for almost 40% of the total gold medals won by Russia at the Winter Olympics.

Speaking about the upcoming Second Summer Youth Olympic Games in China, Zhukov said there will be no naturalized foreign nationals performing for the Russian national team on August 16-28.

Zhukov’s statement comes on the same day, when Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainian chess grandmaster Yekaterina Lagno, giving her the green light to compete for the Russian national women team at the Chess Olympiad in Norway’s Tromso next month.

The 24-year-old chess player filed an application to join the Russian women team in March this year and was granted the proper permission on July 11. However, Ukraine voiced its objections concerning Lagno’s transfer with lawyers studying various possibilities to settle the situation.

Putin’s decree on Tuesday seems to put an end to ongoing debates concerning the right of Lagno to compete for Russia.

At the age of 12 years and four months Lagno was awarded with the FIDE title of Woman Grandmaster (WGM) to become the youngest ever chess player to earn this title.

In the current capacity of full Grandmaster (GM), Lagno is the two-time titlist of the European Individual Women’s Championships (2005 and 2008), and she is the 2010 World Woman Blitz Champion and 2014 Women’s World Rapid Champion. With the Ukrainian national women team she won the 2006 Chess Olympiad in Italy’s Turin.

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