Since the end of February, Russian sports have been isolated. It is not surprising that in connection with this, talk began in the country about the possible change of citizenship of a large number of athletes. Therefore, the fact that one of the athletes moved to another team is hardly surprising. But one athlete still managed to do it, because she simply renounced Russian citizenship.
“We are waiting for rejection”
It should be said right away that biathlete Lidia Zhurauskaite made the decision to change her sports citizenship not now, when our sport was isolated, but back in the fall of 2021. Apparently, then the 23-year-old athlete from Murmansk finally realized that she had no prospects in the Russian national team.
Lydia was born in Murmansk, started biathlon late, at the age of 14, and did not achieve much success. Yes, Zhurauskaite has the title of master of sports, but she has not received a single call to the Russian national team: neither in junior, nor in youth, and even more so in the main one. In the 2020/2021 season, the biathlete, speaking in Russia, never got on the podium and finished the season only in 27th place in the total. What are the chances of getting into the national team?
As a new stage in her career, Lydia decided to choose Lithuania, given her roots. Usually, the change of sports citizenship does not affect the change of passport in any way. Many Russian biathletes compete for other national teams while remaining Russian citizens: Natalya Ushkina (Romania), Timofey Lapshin (South Korea), Anastasia Kuzmina (Slovakia).
In the case of Zhurauskaite, everything happened differently. She decided to get into the new team not with the help of a new sports passport, but by obtaining Lithuanian citizenship. Great-grandfather Zhurauskaite is Lithuanian, so she could receive citizenship through a simplified system of repatriation. But for this it was necessary to give up the Russian passport. A not particularly promising biathlete decided to go for it, because the chances of getting into the Lithuanian national team are very significant, especially since she did not play for the Russian national team, and the Lithuanian federation is ready to help with the transition.
“Lydia has already received citizenship under the restoration program – the great-grandfather of the athlete was Lithuanian,” the head of the Lithuanian Biathlon Federation, Arunas Daugirdas, explained the situation in October. – During the year, with the help of the federation, all archival documents were collected. We have received a decision to grant her Lithuanian citizenship, now we are waiting for the only certificate from Russia – about renunciation of the citizenship of this country.”
“My goal is the Olympic Games”
The biathlete called the goal of the transition the desire to get to the Olympic Games, which, without a doubt, are the main dream of most athletes. At first, Lydia wanted to have time to change her citizenship in Beijing, but it didn’t work out.
“My main goal is the Olympic Games in Italy. I can’t compete at the Beijing Olympics because we don’t have time to get citizenship,” Zhurauskaite said back in November 2021. – But it is very important for me that I was noticed and given the opportunity. I see how the president and the coach of the federation are trying to make me feel as comfortable as possible here. I am very grateful to Lithuania.”
Lidia has good chances to get into the national team and shoot in Lithuania. The best Lithuanian biathlete Gabriele Leschinskaitė placed 81st in the total at the last World Cup with 24 points. Such a prospect, along with problems with biathlon in Murmansk, according to one of the former coaches of the athlete Alexander Kosorygin, was the reason for the transition.
“It should be said that Lydia made the decision on her own. Murmansk athletes in general very often change their fate by moving to other regions. The continuous reconstruction of the Dolina Uyuta sports complex has been going on for 15 years and is still not over. The poor girl “grew up at a construction site” and did not want to “die” on it, Kosorygin explained.
Photo: From the personal archive of Lidia Zhurauskaite
“She will be sorry”
On July 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree in which he granted the request of a biathlete from Murmansk and deprived her of Russian citizenship. And this event immediately caused a stir.
“She is a promising biathlete. In Lithuania, it will look very decent: if not the first number, then among the leaders, – shared his opinion, two-time Olympic champion Dmitry Vasiliev. – In order to get into the national team in Russia, you have to work hard. A very bold decision, given the current realities. I think she will be sorry. After a while, he realizes that he made a mistake. Although I may be wrong. Maybe she will successfully play for Lithuania. Everything is quite possible. This can hardly be called a loss for the Russian biathlon. She is a capable athlete, but we have a lot of our own.”
Commentator Dmitry Guberniev also said that the departure of Zhurauskaite for the domestic biathlon will definitely not be a loss, and also asked not to inflate the fact of renunciation of Russian citizenship.
“This is not a precedent, but a special case. She has Lithuanian roots, she went a private way, the procedure is prescribed. She was not in the national team, nowhere. The processes will go if someone changes sports citizenship, being a world champion and an Olympic champion. Now there is no process. Can it be called a loss for the Russian biathlon? Not”.
It is not yet clear when we will see Žurauskaite in the form of the Lithuanian national team. Although, who knows, maybe in the new team she will have a new breath and someday we will see her success at the World Cup. This has happened many times already.