Shane Perkins: Australian cyclist granted Russian citizenship

Shane Perkins
Perkins was world keirin champion in 2011 and won Olympic bronze in the individual sprint a year later

Australia's former cycling world champion Shane Perkins has been granted Russian citizenship and could compete for Russia at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Perkins switched allegiance to Russia after failing to make Australia's track cycling team for the 2016 Rio Games.

The rare defection by an Australian athlete caused surprise as Perkins, who was born in Melbourne, has no family ties to Russia.

He is currently in St Petersburg for Russia's national championships.

A decree published by the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin had signed off on granting the 30-year-old rider citizenship.

"I'm the most excited guy in the world right now. I can make my dreams come true," Perkins said on his Facebook page.external-link

The cyclist was reportedly convinced to join the Russian teamexternal-link by his training partner in Japan, Russian Denis Dmitriev, who told him that it would give him a good chance of competing in Tokyo.

"The Russian Cycling Federation has given me another opportunity to chase my dreams of Olympic representation in Tokyo 2020, which has special significance to me as my father raced the Olympics in Tokyo in 1964," Perkins said earlier this year.

Perkins won the keirin event, beating Britain's Chris Hoy, at the 2011 World Championships.

He was also part of the Australian team that won the team sprint at the 2012 World Championships, the same year he won individual sprint bronze at the London Olympics.

His switch to Russia comes at a time when the country looks to recover after a doping scandal which saw their track-and-field athletes banned for the 2016 Olympics.

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