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Kuksenkov: 'So Far, So Good' in Russia
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With his Russian citizenship recently finalized, 2012 Ukrainian Olympian Nikolai Kuksenkov says he's ready to put his strengths to use on his new team.

With his Russian citizenship recently finalized, 2012 Ukrainian Olympian Nikolai Kuksenkov says he's ready to put his strengths to use on his new team.

On April 22, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an official decree granting citizenship to Kuksenkov and 11 other people. Kuksenkov will be able to represent Russia internationally as soon as the International Gymnastics Federation approves the switch.

Kuksenkov, who turns 24 in June, said he will be back at Round Lake on Sunday to resume training following a short vacation back to Ukraine.

"Training is going very well," Kuksenkov told "All Sport" this week. "I like the conditions, the coaching staff, the organization. I went through the whole cycle of training with the Russian team for the European championships, all the model training and mock meets. So far, so good."

Kuksenkov moved to Russia after the 2012 Olympics in London, where he was a frustrated fourth with the Ukrainian team and in the all-around final. He has said he a lot of family in Russia, including his sister, journalist Irina Kuksenkova. His father and coach, Yuli Kuksenkov, stayed in Kiev as coach of the Ukrainian men's team.

In Russia, Kuksenkov has been dividing his time between Vladimir and the Round Lake training center outside Moscow. At the Russian championships in March, he won the high bar title and helped the Central region win the team title.

Kuksenkov is now training under Igor Kalabushkin, who coached the late Yuri Ryazanov.

"I work with my personal trainer, Igor Kalabushkin, but in general, there's a large coaching staff that works as a team," Kuksenkov said. "There are individual experts on each apparatus, and the head coach, Valery Alfosov, who oversees the process and helps all the gymnasts. Everyone understands each other, so it was easy to join the Russian team. Honestly, I thought everything would be more difficult - new team, new people. But the team is a very positive atmosphere, I am pleased to be in it."

The citizenship switch came too late for Kuksenkov to represent Russia at the European championships, April 17-21 in Moscow. However, Kuksenkov said he is more focused on 2014, when both the European and world championships will include a team competition. He hopes his best events — pommel horse, parallel bars and high bar — will match up with weakness in the Russian men's lineup.

"All the championships this season are for individuals, like the recent European championships, and the upcoming world championships," he said. "Next year will be a lot more important because the European and world championships will be for teams. And I am really putting my focus on the team competition. But what I said about the holes that need to be filled - on horse, parallel bars, high bar - it's really true."

Kuksenkov said he still has all-around hopes, but repeated knee and foot injuries have kept him from the leg events the past six months. He said he plans to gradually resume tumbling and vaulting while perfecting his other routines.

"I don't not think I will add too much more, .1 or .2, but this is not such a significant change," he said of his current routines. "My goal is to clean up my best events. For example, in Russian championships on a pommel horse I did a 6.6-Difficult points, and now I have to potentially 6.9-7.0 points. The same thing on the bar and parallel bars. The main thing for me now is just to focus on my strengths, and on the weaker events, floor exercise and vault, just get by with a passable level sufficient to qualify for the final all-around."

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