Russia Native Kirpichnikova Attains French Citizenship, Barely Misses Worlds Spot in 10K

One day after officially being granted French citizenship, 22-year-old Russian native Anastasia Kirpichnikova missed qualifying for France’s open water squad headed to this year’s World Championships by just .22 seconds in the women’s 10km race on Saturday in Martinique. The top two finishers, Lisa Pou and Oceane Cassignol, automatically earned trips to Worlds in Fukuoka this summer.

The French Swimming Federation (FFN) is confident that Kirpichnikova will be eligible to swim for France at Worlds since they initiated the process for her new sporting nationality before World Aquatics (formerly FINA) approved a rule last month requiring a three-year waiting period between changes.

Kirpichnikova has been training in France for the past years under coach Philippe Lucas, who has worked with Olympic medalists such as Sharon von Rouwendaal, Marc-Antoine Olivier, and Laure Manaudou. She hasn’t raced in the pool outside of France since the 2021 Short Course World Championships, where she won silver in the 800 free.

“There are still a few small steps with World Aquatics but the whole process is underway and it will be fluid until the world championships,” FFN technical director Julien Issoulié said. “We are lucky to have the support of the Russian Federation, since we warned them more than a year ago that they wanted to change. They wrote to us again recently to confirm this support so it will be put in place. All the documents will be ready for the World Championships.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February has rendered Kirpichnikova unable to compete internationally for over a year. The International Olympic Committee seems to be leaning toward allowing Russians and Belarusians to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics as neutrals with no national flag or anthem, but swimmers from both countries are set to miss this summer’s World Championships for the second year in a row.

The first Russian woman to participate in pool and open water swimming at the Olympics, Kirpichnikova could make a huge impact in both disciplines for France. In Tokyo, she placed 7th in the 1500 free, 8th in the 800 free, and 14th in the 400 free while also finishing 15th in the 10km open water race.

She would be France’s fastest woman so far this year in the 400 free (4:08.50), 800 free (8:27.98), and 1500 free (16:07.45). The same was true in 2022, and in 2021 she would have been the fastest French woman in the 800 and 1500 freestyles. She remains the current Russian record holder in both the 800 and 1500 free in long course meters and short course meters.

Kirpichnikova appears to be the first Russian swimmer to successfully switch sporting citizenships since the war in Ukraine, but she’s not the only one trying. Mark Nikolaev, a 26-year-old backstroke specialist who’s the eighth-fastest ever in the 50 back, is reportedly applying for Australian sporting nationality.

A former NCAA swimmer at Grand Canyon University, Nikolaev placed 2nd in both the 50 back (25.43) and 100 back (54.76) at the Australian National Championships last week. Both events are weak points for Australian men right now, especially as it relates to an otherwise-strong medley relay, so Nikolaev could be put to good use in a hurry if he can attain Russian eligibility.

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1 month ago

Where’s Bobo?

Alison England
1 month ago

I wonder whether Tatiana Belonogoff regrets switching TO Russia!?

1 month ago

Good for her. She’s clearly demonstrated a commitment to France. I hope she gets approval for Fukuoka

1 month ago

Could kirpichnikova do the french trials for World Champs from June 11-16?

Reply to  gitech
1 month ago

She is now French, so it should not be an issue. Could she then compete at World or at the Olympics is still up in the air. The French Federation has a positive view on this it seems, but time will tell.

Reply to  gitech
1 month ago

Can’t say with 100% certainty, but if she was able to do the French Trials in open water, I assume she can do the one in the pool.

Grant us eyes
1 month ago

Good for her really, she has nothing to do with the war that’s going on right now, especially because she’s been living here in France for several years. She trains under legendary coach Phillipe Lucas , and I can tell you that long distance and open water training are no joke (way more than 50 km / week) Glad she can compete on international scene again.

Reply to  Grant us eyes
1 month ago

Bro no swimmer had anything to do with the war they are people living under an authoritarian regime. U can make the case for rylov but he was probably coerced.

1 month ago

3 questions regarding Niolaev:
When did he start the process of changing sporting nationality (before or after the new rule)?
When did he move to Australia?
When was the last time he represented Russia?

1 month ago

I hope more Russians are able to take similar measures in order to compete internationally but time is running out.

Demarrit Steenbergen
Reply to  BearlyBreathing
1 month ago

I think that Kirpichnikova is special because she has established residency via living in France for several years

Reply to  BearlyBreathing
1 month ago

It’s not an easy thing to change nationality for those who lived in Russia during their entire life. Both Kirpichnikova and Nikolaev have been living abroad for many years.

Reply to  BearlyBreathing
1 month ago

There are 2 potential lifelines.

A. Dual nationality/citizenship for those who may have lived much of their lives outside RUS and had chosen to represent RUS in the past as it may’ve been the easier path to international competition.

B. Long term overseas residency in the one country which may indeed work for Kirpichnikova. Nikolaev’s case may be more problematic as much of that time was in a different country (USA for NCAA) than in the country where he is seeking citizenship (AUS).

One small aside regarding the article itself; namely ‘otherwise strong medley relay’. With due respect; AUS would also need to discover/clone/recruit/kidnap a quality make 100breaststroker in order to be competitive in the M4XMED.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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