Three Kenyan runners have received Romanian citizenship and hope to be able to compete for Romania in the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.
Marathon runners Joan Chelimo and Delvine Meringor, and 5,000-meter athlete Stella Ruto took their oath on Thursday, national news agency Agerpres reported.
It’s the first time African-born athletes have acquired Romanian citizenship, officials said.
The Romanian Athletics Federation said the three women could now represent Romania in all international competitions.
Ms Chelimo,31, and Ms Merignor, 29, have already made the Olympic qualifying time of 2:29:30 needed to be able to compete.
Stella Rutor, 26, will try to qualify for the 5,000-meters and 3,000-meter steeplechase.
„It is a very important moment for Romanian athletics. We show everyone that we are an open nation, with a European way of thinking,” said Florin Florea, president of the Romanian Athletics Federation.
“These three athletes will strengthen the Romanian team. I want Romania to evolve in the European Super League in the next 4-6 years, ” he added.
Joan Chelimo said she was looking forward to win as many medals for Romania as possible: “I am very happy that I obtained Romanian citizenship. I want to win as many medals, medals at the Olympic Games and World Championships as possible and to make Romania proud, ” she said.
International Athletics Federation needs to confirm their eligibility to the Romanian Athletics Federation and the Romanian Olympic and Sports Committee. .
Coach Carol Şanta said he’d been waiting for the moment for a long time.
„I have been waiting for this moment for five years. Today, I managed to bring three very valuable athletes to Romania I hope that at least one of them will win a medal at the Olympic Games. I want to retire after such a moment „, he said.
The three women will take part in next week’s the National Championships in the southern city of Pitesti in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
Five Romanian athletes have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics so far. They are Florentina Iuşco and Alina Rotaru in the long jump, Claudia Bobocea in the 1,500 meters. Daniela Stanciu for the high jump and Alin Firfirică in the discus.
Under the Olympic Charter, an athlete who acquires a new nationality may only participate in the Olympics for his or her new country after at least three years have passed since the athlete last represented his or her former nation.
The Olympic Charter allows for one exception _ an agreement among the relevant national Olympic bodies and the international federation may have that three-year period reduced or canceled.