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Vyatchanin Choses Another Country

Apr 22, 2013  - Craig Lord

Arkady Vyatchanin, Russia's leading long-course backstroke specialist of the past decade, said last night that he may switch country's after the World Championships in Barcelona this summer if relations between the Gators-based athlete and the Russian swim federation do not improve.

He went further today when he tweeted: I will not be in Barcelona, switching to another country, adding in Russian: a little sorry for [missing] Barcelona but  2015 World Championships are still there before Rio :).

If he starts the process of change now, Vyatchanin, based in Florida, would be free to compete for another country by 2015, the year Russian hosts the world championships in Kazan, scene of the Russian nationals these past seven days. 

The 28-year-old national record holder over 100 and 200m backstroke told the Sport-Express outlet in Russia  "I'm tired of how the federation treats me and the other athletes".

The trouble started when Vyatchanin could not make it back home in time for nationals a couple of seasons back. Still fuming over what it perceived as a lack of control over one of its top athletes, Russia called on Vyatchanin to attend a hearing of a Disciplinary Commission on April 9. The decision was: no place for the swimmer at Russian nationals and world-title trials, which come to a conclusion in Kazan today.

Politics appears to be at play, with athletes based overseas suggesting that they are being penalised for failing to race for programmes closely associated with the national federation in Russia.

Vyatchanin noted that no-one had asked him to comply with any "established order" or official programme when it came to preparing for the major events of the summer season at a time when he has been based at the University of Florida in Gainesville. 

Given that was indeed the case, the authorities lamented and allowed Vyatchanin to race in Kazan this past week: he won the 100m and 200m backstroke titles inside world-titles cut and is expected to be named on the Russia team when the federation declares its list of entries for the FINA showcase in Barcelona from July 19 to August 4.

Vyatchanin tells the Russian media that he "gave Russian swimming my best" but in return he had been treated like a child by officials who had contradicted themselves. He asked for an apology.

After a conversation with current Russia head coach Anatoly Zhuravlev, Vyatchanin told the media: "I asked him to publicly apologize for accusing me of lying. It seems like he agreed, but I do not know whether people will keep their word. Although it does not matter."

The accusation of lying that was levelled at Vyatchanin was "the last straw", the athlete said. Authorities had painted a picture of "a kid", and while Vyatchanin said that he does not "consider myself much of an adult yet", he did believe he was due respect.

Asked if he was serious about switching nations and which nations are on his list, he replied: "I would not wish to disclose that but nations such as Azerbaijan are not on the list." The suggestion was that any switch would be a change to a nation among the best 20 in the world.

Last night he said that he would make up his mind "by the end of the season" but probably not before Barcelona 2013 world titles. This evening, he appears to be saying that he has swum his last race for Russia. What a way for a nation to let a national record holder and big-time medal winner swim away.

The Russian federation is led by former 1500m Olympic champion of 1980 and 1988 Vladimir Salnikov, who will have known Vyatchanin since he was a young boy and will have known Vyatchanin's parents, involved in elite sport for much of his own life. 

When former athletes take up the political reigns, you might expect to see better relationships with athletes. Vyatchanin believes he has good reason to think otherwise.