Once the reigning European king, this year Russia finished a dismal fourth at the European Athletics Championships. The reason, the head of its athletics federation says, is because Russia isn't black enough.
"Black athletes, who form the backbone of the British team, won 14 of their squad's 23 overall medals at the event," Valentin Balakhnichev told Novye Izvestia. "Meanwhile, we're currently doing almost nothing to bring young black talents into our squad to help us stay at a leading position in Europe and the world."
Balakhnichev said he tried recruiting black athletes before but was roundly criticized. No longer can he sit idly by while Mother Russia slips from her vaunted position.
"No one understands that after about five years Russia will start to sound the alarm," he said, adding, "It is necessary to approach the issue of naturalization of athletes with modern measures."
"Acquiring" athletes isn't uncommon in Olympic sports—both Turkey and Azerbaijan earned medals at the championships this year with naturalized East Africans. Balakhnichev's plan is to entice 100 "young and promising" black athletes who "know a foreign sport" to attend Volga University, similar to the scholarship model used in the U.S. Once in country, these athletes will ostensibly blossom under Russian coaching, developing a natural affection long winters and cold beet soup.
Russia still leads the overall medal count from the history of the championships, and they took a boatload of bronzes this year. But the time of Russian track supremacy has come to a close. It's the end of an era, and once you go black, you never go back.
h/t Business Insider, Photo: AP Images