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Kuksenkov Considered Competing for Russia
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Ukrainian standout Nikolai Kuksenkov was considering a switch to the Russian team, but had to turn down the offer because it could affect his eligibility for the 2012 Olympics in London, his father told newspaper "Sovietsky Sport."

International Olympic Committee rules state that an athlete who has represented one country at major international competition must wait three years before competing under a different flag in the Olympic Games.

IOC rules are keeping Nikolai Kuksenkov in Ukraine — for now

"We really had an offer," said Yuly Kuksenkov, his father and coach. "Kolya could live in Vladimir and train with the Russian national team. And he even agreed. But according to the rules .... if Kolya moved to Russia, we would have to forget about London."

Exceptions to the rule are possible with approval from the IOC and respective national federations, though the Ukrainian Olympic Committee could conceivably be against releasing its top gymnast.

The 21-year-old Kuksenkov tied for the all-around bronze medal Friday at the European championships in Berlin, where he was a finalist on parallel bars and high bar. He was fourth all-around at the 2010 Worlds.

Training conditions and medical treatment in Ukraine are poor, Kuksenkov told IG last fall. The gymnast has been suffering from a knee injury for the past year.

Several gymnasts from the former Soviet republics have moved around the map. In the 1990s, Sergei Kharkov (Russia) and Valery Belenky (Azerbaijan) began competing for Germany, while Russian Dmitry Karbanenko joined the French team.

In the 2000s, Russia's Yevgenia Kuznetsova and Ukrainians Yaroslav Vovk and Viktoria Karpenko switched to Bulgaria.

Several Jewish gymnasts have emigrated to Israel, including Uzbekistan's Alexander Shatilov, Russia's Andrey Medvedev and Ukraine's Valeria Maksyuta.

Uzbekistan's Oksana Chusovitina has been competing for Germany since 2006, though she is also the head coach for Uzbekistan. Ukrainian Alina Kozich and Russian Daria Yelizarova switched to Uzbekistan, and it's rumored two-time Russian Olympian Anna Pavlova could follow in their footsteps.

Russia's depth has Andrei Likhovitsky trying to secure citizenship to compete for Belarus, where he may be joined by Dmitry Barkalov.

But Kuksenkov is strong enough that he would be an asset to the Russian men's team, which could provide more financial support. While the Russian women rebounded to win the team and all-around titles at the 2010 Worlds, the Russian men still are rebuilding and looking for stars.

Read "Serious Contender," a profile on Nikolai Kuksenkov, in the March issue of "International Gymnast," available now digitally with a subscription. Click here to subscribe today!

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