MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australian cyclist Shane Perkins has been given the green light to attain Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin, paving the way for the twice world champion to represent his new country at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The Melbourne-born 30-year-old won a sprint bronze for Australia at the 2012 Olympics in London but missed out on selection for last year’s Rio Games.
"The President resolved to grant Russian Federation citizenship to Shane Alan Perkins," the Kremlin said in a statement on its website (en.kremlin.ru/acts/news/55354)
Perkins posted a picture of himself on Twitter wearing Russia colors on his bike and wrote: “I‘m the most excited guy in the world right now! I can make my dreams come true!”
Perkins, a good friend of Russia’s reigning world champion sprinter Denis Dmitriev, who took bronze in the sprint at Rio, began seriously considering defecting less than a year ago, frustrated at being shut out of Australia’s high performance program, he told local media.
Perkins’ father Daryl, a former national champion, raced in the now defunct tandem sprint with Ian Browne at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. They were beaten by the silver medal-winning Soviet Union pair of Imants Bodnieks and Viktor Logunov in the quarter-finals.
Australia has granted citizenship to a number of top Russian athletes over the years, including women’s tennis player Daria Gavrilova, the world number 26, and former European champion speed skater Tatiana Borodulina.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford