Russian Olympic queen discusses chances of citizenship change
High jump star Mariya Lasitskene commented on the issue as she remains sidelined by a ban
Olympic high jump champion Mariya Lasitskene has said she is not considering a change in citizenship despite being frustrated by the sweeping bans imposed on Russian athletes at international competitions.
Lasitskene, who is a three-time world champion, was denied the opportunity to defend her title at the recent World Athletics Championships in Oregon because of the blanket suspension imposed on Russian and Belarusian competitors.
The issue of sporting bans has prompted discussion in Russia about the possibility of stars changing their nationality to circumvent the suspensions.
Lasitskene, however, has dismissed the idea that she would be among those to consider such a step.
“I’m not thinking about changing sports citizenship. I’m too old for that. I don’t want to change it, and that’s all,” the 29-year-old told the media as she competed at an event in Moscow over the weekend.
Russian State Duma Deputy Roman Teryushkov has said that any athletes who do switch citizenship should be considered guilty of treason.
Lasitskene said she was not on board with that kind of thinking.
“I can give advice to think about your life, decide for yourself, decide without pressure,” said the star.
“Everyone has one life, everyone should be happy. This is a very serious matter. Everyone must decide for themselves…
“There are many people in the State Duma whose forces are directed a little bit in the wrong direction.
“There are more problems in Russia than equating the change of sports citizenship with treason.”
Lasitskene has been among the most vocal critics of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and president Thomas Bach for its recommendation to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from appearing at global events because of the conflict in Ukraine.
The high jump queen penned an open letter to Bach in June, accusing him of lacking the “courage and dignity” to lift the bans, which have been described as discriminatory.
Lasitskene became emotional as she competed in the ‘Path to Olympus’ event in Moscow at the weekend, appearing tearful before her final jump and taking time to compose herself on the sidelines.
The star went on to fail with her effort at 1.96 meters, but still won the event with her successful attempt at 1.91 meters.
“I do not know [what caused it]. This is what was inside. It’s uncontrollable, all together, en masse. This happened to me for the first time. But I tried to pull myself together – this is a plus. I think it’s called hysteria,” she said.
In the absence of Lasitskene at the World Athletics Championships this month, the high jump was won by Australia’s Eleanor Patterson.
Patterson had said before the event that “it’s never nice to see someone of such high talent and accolades not be here.”
World Athletics initially placed an indefinite ban on Russian and Belarusian competitors at the start of March, following the IOC’s recommendation.
Athletics bosses have approved the applications of 73 Russians in total to compete internationally as neutrals – including Lasitskene – although that did not cover the World Championships and their status remains in limbo because of the conflict in Ukraine.
Lasitskene and others were already forced to compete under neutral status because of the long-running sanctions placed on Russia because of doping allegations against the country.
IOC official Craig Reedie recently suggested that Russian athletes could be barred from the Paris 2024 Olympics because they would not be cleared to compete in qualifying events.