Two-time U23 World Champion Semyon Novikov (87 kg) has recently voiced a desire to discontinue competing for his native Ukraine and, instead, switch over to Bulgaria. On Friday, Bulgaria’s official federation outlet reported that Novikov, 23, had recently been expressing interest in the change of citizenship due in large part to a lack of opportunities. #1 on the ladder at 87 for UKR is 2021 Olympic/multi-time World Champion Zhan Belenyuk, who has held the top spot for eight consecutive years. However, Novikov has received several premier Senior starts, which include a gold from the ’20 European Championships (where he defeated Viktor Lorincz) and appearances in a pair of “Ranking Series” tournaments.
Novikov’s dissatisfaction with UKR involves team selection. Vladimir Shatskikh handles that responsibility for Ukraine; Shatskikh is Belenyuk’s personal coach and the two are naturally close. As such, Novikov apparently feels that he has not been given a fair chance to compete in a Senior World-level event (this despite Belenyuk’s consistent success). “Nothing good is waiting for me here,” Novikov said of Ukraine. “Nobody cared how I lived the past few years before I made this decision.”
Following up on this story, the online Indian news magazine The Times Hub reports that Belenyuk was “surprised” to hear of Novikov’s wishes. In addition, The Times Hub states that Belenyuk notified both Shatskikh and federation president Yuriy Kopytko, with all parties agreeing that they want Novikov to stay put in Ukraine. “I know that he is in a difficult place now,” Belenyuk said. “He has the same shoulder injury as before the Olympics. He was operated on. Perhaps this is psychologically affecting and demotivating him. Novikov is a strong athlete who can do a lot for Ukrainian Greco-Roman wrestling. You need to listen to him and understand what is going on.”
Later, The Times updated their report with a new quote from Novikov, who veered away from a potential move to Bulgaria and pegged the chatter as speculative. “Information about the change of citizenship is all rumor,” said Novikov. “And it’s a pity that they only turn to me about rumors and not when I’m having problems. But, to be honest, unfortunately, nobody is interested in me in this country.” The Times — sans direct quote — adds that Novikov would entertain the idea of competing for other countries besides Bulgaria.
Novikov would need to take several steps in order to be granted citizenship somewhere outside of Ukraine along with licensure for international competition under another federation. As of press time, neither Bulgaria or Ukraine have commented publicly on the matter.
BLR & RUS Nationals
One coming right up, the other requires a wait. This coming weekend (November 26-28), Belarus will hold their Senior Greco Nationals in Staiki at the Republican Center for Olympic Training. Streaming information is not yet available. Russia will run their annual grand tournament February 2-6 at the new Suzdal Arena in Suzdal.
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