MOSCOW — Russia is hoping to recruit former world champion track cyclist Shane Perkins of Australia in a push for medals at the 2020 Olympics.
Perkins said Wednesday in a Facebook statement that he “will now be riding for Russia,” alongside a picture of himself in Russian team gear.
“`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 (Darryl Perkins) raced the Olympics in Tokyo 1964,” he added.
Perkins said his move had the backing of Australian cycling officials. However, Russia said the switch isn’t yet complete.
RCF general secretary Yuri Kucheryavy told Russia’s R-Sport news agency that Perkins was training with Russia’s sprinters recently and “we’re interested in him for the team sprint, where we need a third person,” as well as the keirin.
“We still need to sort everything out officially,” Kucheryavy added.
Perkins has won two gold medals at the track world championships and Olympic individual sprint bronze in 2012, though he didn’t make the team for last year’s games in Rio de Janeiro.
Russia has long been open to naturalizing athletes from neighboring countries but stepped up its program for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, bringing in South Korean speedskater Viktor Ahn and U.S. snowboarder Vic Wild, both of whom won gold medals.
Other Russian recruits include former world boxing champion Roy Jones Jr., who was awarded Russian nationality by a special order of President Vladimir Putin.