WASHINGTON, August 19 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Olympic bronze medal pairs figure skaters Oleg Makarov and his wife Larisa Selezneva, along with their 20-year-old daughter, Ksenia Makarova, who represented Russia at the 2010 Winter Olympics, became US citizens at a naturalization ceremony in New York late last week, the US Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) confirmed to RIA Novosti Monday.
“I’m really happy,” Ksenia Makarova said in an interview with MSNBC.
“I feel like a different person,” she added.
Makarov and Selezneva met in 1978 when they were paired by their coaches in the former Soviet Union to perform together, and won the World Junior Championships in 1980 and 1981, according to the International Skating Union. They won the bronze medal at the Winter Olympics in 1984, and were married in 1987, the Times Herald-Record, a newspaper in Middletown, New York reported in 2010.
Friday’s naturalization ceremony at the USCIS building in New York completes a journey that began in 2002, when the family moved from Saint Petersburg to Newburgh, New York.
Their former coaches had recommended them as coaches in the United States. But their daughter, who first tried skating when she was six, didn’t follow her parents’ path on the ice right away
“I stepped on the ice and I fell,” she told GoldenSkate, an online forum for competitive ice skaters.
“It was really cold and my butt started to hurt, so I told my parents that I don’t like it,” but she tried again a few years later and took to the sport quickly.
She is the 2010 Russian national figure skating champion and finished tenth at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
But why now, after all these years, would the family pursue US citizenship? The idea came from Ksenia, with an eye on her future career: she wants to become a detective or FBI agent, two choices that require US citizenship.
She has a 12-year-old brother who was born in the United States and is already a US citizen.
Because of an injury, Makarova will not compete in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, but is looking ahead to the Olympics in 2018, she said in the interview with MSNBC.
Selezneva and Makarov coach skaters at the Ice Time Sports Complex in Newburgh. They did not return phone messages from RIA Novosti left at the complex and their home on Monday seeking comment.
Oleg Markarov told MSNBC the family does not want to be dragged into the political tension over Russia’s controversial laws on public expression of homosexuality, which have led to calls for a boycott of Russian products and even a boycott of the Sochi Olympic Games.
“It’s a sport, not politics; sport is sport,” Oleg Makarov said after the naturalization ceremony in New York on Friday. “We prepare our athletes for competition. Politics is not for us.”