Canadian Babikov embraces second 'home' Games

Thu Feb 6, 2014 2:14pm EST
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By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Canadian cross-country skier Ivan Babikov is looking forward to the rare treat of taking part in a second successive "home" Olympics as he returns to compete in Russia, the land of his birth.

The 33-year-old, born in the Russian Republic of Komi, emigrated to Canada 11 years ago but due to the complicated eligibility rules of his sport continued to represent Russia, and wore that nation's colors in the 2006 Olympics.

After finally being granted Canadian citizenship he then raced for his adopted country in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Four years on he is back in Russia, putting his body through the rigors of his sport to represent Canada.

"In a way, this is my second home Olympics in a row," he told reporters on Thursday as he prepared for Sunday's 15km+15km skiathlon race.

"Of course the feeling is a little unusual, but the strangest thing for me is when I start speaking to the volunteers in Russian, when I am wearing a Canadian tracksuit.

"I would say, overall, everything here is great. My team mates and I really like being in Sochi and I cannot say that I have experienced any problems."

Babikov is pleased with the cross-country track and says it will present a real challenge to athletes who are among the fittest of any sport.   Continued...

Ivan Babikov of Canada skis during the Cross Country men's 15km Individual Free Technique competition at the Nordic Ski World Championships in the northern mountain resort of Tesero in Val di Fiemme February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman