— Published 24 April 2023

Russians look elsewhere

The beginning of exile? Russian television channel Match TV reported last week that two Russian swimmers, Anastasia Kirpichnikova and Mark Nikolaev, have officially applied to change their nationality to pursue their international careers under new colours. Anastasia Kirpichnikova (pictured above), a middle-distance and open-water swimmer, applied to become French. Things went very quickly, as she obtained French nationality on 21 April and has already qualified for the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. Aged 22, the former Russian swimmer has been living in France for several years. She trains at Montpellier Métropole Natation and has not competed in a swimming race outside France since the 2021 Worlds in the small pool. Mark Nikolaev, 25, has applied for Australian citizenship. The backstroke specialist is currently training at Bond University in Queensland. He has not represented Russia in competition since the World University Games in 2019. Under new World Aquatics rules, athletes must wait three years after representing a nation before they can compete in their new colours in an international competition. The body recently announced that it had set up a working group to study the possible return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to the international scene, but its first report is not expected until July. Too late to consider their participation in the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka.