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11 Oct, 2022 09:35

Russian ‘trendsetters’ will return, vows swimming queen

Double Olympic champion Vlada Chigireva said her nation would be welcomed back to international events sooner or later
Russian ‘trendsetters’ will return, vows swimming queen

Artistic swimming star Vlada Chigireva has expressed confidence that Russia will return to international competitions despite the widespread sporting bans imposed on the country.

Chigireva, 27, is among those to be sidelined from global tournaments following a decision by swimming authority FINA to suspend all Russians from its events until further notice because of the conflict in Ukraine.

There has already been talk from the likes of honorary International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Craig Reedie that Russian and Belarusian athletes could be forced to miss the Paris 2024 Games because they are not cleared in time for qualifying.

Chigireva, who won gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics and 2020 Tokyo Games, has suggested that her sport is much poorer without the ‘trendsetters’ of the all-conquering Russian synchronized swimming team.

“All sanctions are temporary, they’ll be lifted after some time and we’ll return to the international arena,” the 11-time world champion told TASS.

“Of course, we shouldn’t close our eyes and we do our own synchronized swimming in Russia.

“We should follow what the world is doing, but the world isn’t doing anything yet,” added the 27-year-old.

“Russia has always been a trendsetter in our sport.

“Even if we aren’t allowed at the Olympics, I’ll continue my career, I’m very interested in finding new elements, in making new programs,” added Chigireva. 

Chigireva’s optimism over a Russian return echoes that of her teammate Svetlana Romashina – an Olympic legend who has claimed a record seven artistic swimming gold medals.

Romashina said back in July that there were “good signs” that Russian swimmers would be cleared in time for the Paris Games, considering that the World Championships were pushed back by FINA until February of 2024 – meaning a delayed chance to earn Olympic qualifying spots.

Last month, American Olympic official Susanne Lyons revealed that the IOC was sounding out members over a potential “pathway” for the return of Russian athletes to international competitions.

However, IOC president Thomas Bach later told Italian media that any return could involve Russian competitors “distancing themselves” from the actions of their government in Ukraine.

That suggestion was denounced by Russian sporting officials, including Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) president Stanislav Pozdnyakov, who argued that it was tantamount to making political demands of athletes. 

Pozdnyakov has vowed to raise the issue at a gathering of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) in South Korea later this month.