The International Olympic Committee has approved nine applications for change of nationality, including Olympic swimmer Kayla Sanchez, making those athletes eligible to compete for their new nations at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Sanchez won two Olympic relay medals representing Canada, but after the 2022 World Championships, she changed her sporting citizenship to the Philippines. Sanchez, who had been a member of the Canadian Senior National Team since 2017, was born in Singapore to Filipino parents, and felt a strong connection to her family history which ultimately led to this decision.
At the Tokyo 2020 Games, she won silver in the 400 free relay by swimming the leadoff leg in finals, and she also added a bronze medal by swimming the anchor leg of Canada’s prelims 400 medley relay.
In the process, the Executive Board “granted the requested exemption to the three-year waiting period following the prior agreement of the respective International Federations and National Olympic Committees* concerned, in accordance with paragraph 2 of the Bye-law to Rule 41 of the Olympic Charter.”
IOC rules regarding sporting citizenship are a little different (and simpler) than those put forth by the International Federations. Paragraph 2 reads:
A competitor who has represented one country in the Olympic Games, in continental or regional games or in world or regional championships recognised by the relevant IF, and who has changed his nationality or acquired a new nationality, may participate in the Olympic Games to represent his new country provided that at least three years have passed since the competitor last represented his former country. This period may be reduced or even cancelled, with the agreement of the NOCs and IF concerned, by the IOC Executive Board, which takes into account the circumstances of each case.
Sanchez was not yet eligible to represent the Philippines at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships, where six athletes from the country competed under the FINA flag while their federation was suspended.
The list of nine athletes whose change of allegiance were approved include three Russian athletes. With Russia’s future in the Olympic Games still uncertain amid the country’s ongoing war in Ukraine, and with qualifying opportunities for their athletes slipping away, Russian athletes who want to participate in Paris are seeking alternative citizenships.
Given the response from Russian officials, this seems to invoke this clause of the same Rule 41 Bylaw from the Olympic Charter:
Furthermore, in all cases in which a competitor would be eligible to participate in the Olympic Games, either by representing another country than his or by having the choice as to the country which such competitor intends to represent, the IOC Executive Board may take all decisions of a general or individual nature with regard to issues resulting from nationality, citizenship, domicile or residence of any competitor, including the duration of any waiting period.
These three are among at least 70 Russian athletes who have changed sporting citizenship since the country invaded Ukraine. Among them is swimmer Anastasiia Kirpichnikova, who was approved by World Aquatics to represent France over the summer.
The three Russians approved by the IOC in their latest meeting included 23-year-old track cyclist Mikhail Iakolvev, who is a European Championship and World Championship bronze medalist representing Russia or the Russian Cycling Federation, from Russia to Israel; BMX cyclist Valeriia Liubimova from Russia to France; and 39-year-old wrestler Georgii Tibilov from Russia to Serbia.
Tibilov began his career representing Ukraine internationally, winning silver in the 96kg weight class at the 2008 European Championships and representing Ukraine at the 2008 Summer Olympics. He was born in the USSR in a city that is now part of Russia.
The full list of changes approved by the IOC Executive Board:
- Jamie Copus – Rowing – from Great Britain to USA
- Luciana Diniz – Equestrian – from Portugal to Brazil
- Valeriia Liubimova – Cycling – from Russia to France
- Oscar Nilsson-Julien – Cycling – from Great Britain to France
- Connor O’Leary – Surfing – from Australia to Japan
- Kayla Sanchez – Swimming – from Canada to the Philippines
- Georgi Tiblov – Wrestling – from Russia to Serbia
- Acelya Toprak – Judo – from Great Britain to Azerbaijan
- Mikhail Yakolev – Cycling – from Russia to Israel