Former tennis world No. 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov has snubbed his home country Russia to pursue his dream of Olympic golf with Ukraine, he told R-Sport on Wednesday.
Since retiring from tennis at the end of the 2003 season, Kafelnikov has taken up golf with varying degrees of success, once becoming the Russian champion but failing to make the cut at any professional international events.
Golf will return to the Olympic schedule in Rio de Janeiro after a 112-year absence, and Kafelnikov has long stated his desire to become an Olympic golfer after winning gold in the men’s singles tennis in 2000.
“It is highly likely that an offer will come to represent Ukraine at the Olympics,” Kafelnikov said.
“There are preliminary talks on financing my preparation for the Olympics from the Ukrainian side.”
Kafelnikov signaled a complete break with Russia’s golfing officials, who said they had offered him financing.
“I don’t have any special contact with the Russian Golf Association. I think that incompetent people who don’t understand golf work there,” he said.
Russian Golf Association director Elena Akhmedyanova told R-Sport that Kafelnikov was “unfortunately” no longer in the national team.
“He was offered financing as part of the preparation of the Russian national team, including a pre-season training camp in the United States and participation in a wide-ranging calendar of tournaments around the world,” she said.
“This offer was rejected by Yevgeny.”
Kafelnikov’s last major golf tournament was the Austrian Open in July, where he missed the cut by eight shots. This was an improvement on his two previous showings at the Russian Open, where he missed the cut by 27 in 2008 and by 40 in 2005.