Australian track cyclist Shane Perkins has officially been granted Russian citizenship by President Vladimir Putin, under a presidential decree published on Friday.
Perkins, a two-time world champion and Olympic bronze medallist, first declared his intention to represent Russia in February, several months after missing out on selection for Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The sprinter, who will have dual Australian-Russian nationality, felt the switch was his best chance of being able to compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. After taking part in the Russian national track championships earlier this week, placing third in the individual sprint, Perkins' citizenship was made official on Friday.
"I'm very grateful and I'd particularly like to thank the Russian Cycling Federation, President Vladimir Putin, my Coach Vladimir Khozov, and the strong team of people behind me that have made this transition possible," said Perkins in a statement.
"I'm ready to race for Russia at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, I am working very hard to continually raise the bar in my performances both at training and in racing and will continue to do so every step of the way in the lead up to and at the Games."
Perkins became world champion in the keirin in 2011, and was part of Australia's team sprint-winning trio at the 2012 worlds, going on to win bronze in the individual sprint at the London Olympics. However, his relationship with the Australian cycling federation soured in 2015 when he claims he was told to retire after the 2015 Worlds, and was subsequently blocked from riding World Cup events.
After missing out on Rio he had to consider his future, and in an interview with the Guardian in April he describes how Russian track rider Denis Dmitriev, who had become a close friend, planted the idea of applying for Russian citizenship. "If you had told me at the beginning of last year that I would be Russian in 2017, I would have laughed you out of the room," he said.
After racing the keirin at the Russian nationals today, Perkins heads to Japan for the Japanese Keirin Series.
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