Russian-born speed skater Tatiana Borodulina will be eligible to compete for Australia at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics after changes to the country’s citizenship laws, officials said on Monday.
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Evans, made the announcement here following representations from Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates.
The proposed amendments to Australia’s Citizenship Act will be introduced into the federal parliament next month and will reduce the residency requirements from four years to two for athletes of distinguished sporting talent, Evans told a press conference.
Borodulina, 24, moved to Australia in 2006 hoping to represent her new country at the Olympics but missed the cut-off for becoming an Australian citizen by 18 days when the previous federal government tightened the rules in 2007 and extended the residency period from two to four years.
“Once the legislation is passed and immediately following Royal Assent, an Australian citizenship ceremony will be conducted for Tatiana before the 2010 Olympic Winter Games qualification events in November,” AOC Director of Sport Fiona de Jong said in a statement.
“We are extremely grateful to the federal government for their understanding and support which will benefit athletes from a number of Olympic sports,” she said.
The Chef de Mission of the Australian Winter Olympic team, Ian Chesterman, said Borodulina has been competing for Australia over the past few years.
“She has won two gold medals and a bronze on the World Cup circuit in the 2008/2009 season,” Chesterman said.
“She is world class and athletes with her ability lift the standard of all Australian skaters.”
The AOC said in a bid to qualify for citizenship Borodulina joined the Australian Army Reserve and she also rejected approaches from Russian skating officials to return home.
“Tatiana loves Australia and she is just one of many athletes who settle in Australia and want to compete for their adopted country,” Chesterman said.