Russian swimmer Yuliya Efimova given Olympics opportunity

Russian swimmer Yuliya Efimova given Olympics opportunity


The Paris Olympics run from July 26 to August 11

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Paris (AFP) – Yuliya Efimova on Friday became the first Russian swimmer to be granted neutral status for the Paris Olympics -- but said she might struggle to reach the qualifying standard.

Efimova, who won silver medals in the 100m and 200m breaststroke events at the Rio Olympics and took bronze in the 200m breaststroke at London 2012, was named by swimming's governing body World Aquatics as having neutral status for Paris.

World Aquatics had banned competitors from Russia and its ally Belarus following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but in September 2023 said they could return to international competition as neutrals if they meet specific criteria.

However 32-year-old Efimova told Russia's Match TV.Ru that she would struggle to meet the Olympics qualifying deadline of June 23 and that as she did not have a visa for Europe she was unable to compete in events where she could qualify.

"They gave it (the neutral status) to me today but it's a big problem that I don't have enough time for the international qualification," she said. "(The competitions) all finish on June 23 – either they have happened or they are happening next week.

"The most important thing is, World Aquatics quickly looked at my application and they support me, for me to perform at the Olympics. "But I don't have a visa for Europe and I don't have access to the international qualifying start and they are all finishing."

Efimova, also a six-time gold medallist at the world championships, said she believed "theoretically, I could achieve a decent time in Paris. But it looks like we won't find out about that."

The president of the Russian Swimming Federation, Vladimir Salnikov, told TASS state news agency that it was up to each swimmer to apply for neutral status but that Russia did not stand in their way.

"We didn't ban athletes from applying to get this status, it's her personal business," he said.

The International Olympic Committee has ruled that Russians competing as neutral athletes will not be allowed to display their country's flags, emblems or have their anthem played.

The Paris Olympics run from July 26 to August 11.