KAZAN, Russia, April 22. OLYMPIC medalist Arkady Vyatchanin announced today that he's looking for a new country to represent at international competitions, one day after the conclusion of the Russian nationals where he won two backstroke events.
The Associated Foreign Press is reporting today that Vyatchanin will not represent Russia at the world championships, electing to sit out the major meet of the year to get the process started to switch sport nationalities.
“I believe that I can offer nothing else to Russian swimming,” Vyatchanin was quoted as saying at the Russian Cup final in Kazan. “I will continue my swimming performances but not as a Russian athlete any more. I will decide which country's team to join in the near future.”
FINA regulations will likely dictate the country Vyatchanin could represent. The international governing body requires an athlete to live in the country he wishes to represent “for at least twelve months prior to his first representation for the country.” As of right now, the only country Vyatchanin could represent besides Russia is the United States, where he has lived for about three years, training with the postgraduate team at the University of Florida.
According to the AFP article, Vyatchanin's coach, Gregg Troy, has supported the swimmer's decision, but the article did not say if Vyatchanin planned to leave Gainesville to establish residency elsewhere. To represent another country under FINA's rules, Vyatchanin would have to live in the country of choice for the majority of that first year.
Vyatchanin, 29, has battled the Russian federation since 2011, when he elected to skip the country's world championship trials that year. Before last week's nationals in Kazan, the federation held a hearing with Vyatchanin to determine his status as a Russian swimmer. The federation allowed him to swim last week, but it is clear feelings of hostility remained.
Vyatchanin won two bronze medals at the 2008 Olympics in both backstroke events, but has not been on a podium at a major international competition since then. His performances last week, however, suggested a return to form, as his times in the 100 and 200 backstrokes put him in the top five in the early world rankings.