The war in Ukraine, which Vladimir Putin launched on February 24, 2022, has prevented Russian athletes from competing in international competitions. But at least 204 of them have managed to change their sporting citizenship in the past year, the publication Cold has calculated.
The largest number of athletes now competing under a different flag was among chess players – 141 people. In their ranks is one of the most successful athletes in the history of Russian chess, Aleksandra Kostenyuk. She is the 12th women’s world chess champion, two-time champion of Russia, European champion, three-time winner of the World Chess Olympiads as a member of the national team. Kostenyuk now plays for Switzerland.
In second place are figure skating and equestrian sport, 11 representatives of which decided to change their citizenship. Among them is Diana Davis, the daughter of honored Russian coach Eteri Tutberidze. The Russian Figure Skating Federation allowed Davis and her partner Gleb Smolkin to join the Georgian national team.
In rhythmic gymnastics and tennis, five athletes announced a change of sports citizenship. This includes Anastasia Simakova, who is a two-time 2019 world junior rhythmic gymnastics champion and bronze medalist at the 2020 Russian Championships in the ribbon exercise. She will compete for Germany from 2024.
Russia lost four more athletes in motorsports and soccer. In cycling, motorcycle racing, speed skating, ice hockey, swimming, rowing, boxing and sailing, Russia lost two athletes in each discipline.
The country also lost one athlete each in freestyle wrestling, track and field, biathlon, short track, MMA, judo, artistic gymnastics and alpine skiing.
According to Cold’s calculations, the most frequent choice of athletes was Israel – 25 Russians now compete under its flag. In second place is Serbia (19 athletes), in third place is Germany (13 people).
At the same time, the real number of Russians who changed their sports citizenship may be many times higher, as a significant proportion of them are young and non-public people, Kholod notes.
Earlier, China did not allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to take part in the 2023 Asian Games in Hangzhou under their flags. 500 athletes from Russia and Belarus will be allowed to compete, but they will not be able to qualify for medals. The athletes were allowed to participate in the games to allow them to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Prior to that, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in international competitions, provided that they do not support the war in Ukraine. When admitting athletes, their public statements, participation in rallies and demonstration of symbols in support of the war should be taken into account, IOC head Thomas Bach said.