The drama of Oleg Stepko and Azerbaijan/Ukraine/Russia continues and an interesting turn happened today – Oleg Stepko said that he wants to try out for the Russian MAG team.
First, a recap:
In September, the Azerbaijani Gymnastics Federation (AGF) fired Pavel Netreba, the personal coach of Oleg Stepko and Petro Pahniuk. He gave an interview in March in which he said that AGF basically only cared about medaling at the European Games and after the Games MAG started getting much less attention from the federation.
In December, Petro Pahniuk left Azerbaijan, saying that the training process lacked organization and that he felt that he would achieve better results in Ukraine. AGF released him and he started trying out for the Ukrainian team.
Meanwhile, in February, Stepko lost the last friends he had in Ukraine by claiming he’s happy in Azerbaijan, he doesn’t need Netreba and he’s not talking to anyone in Ukraine except for his mom. If there was even a slight chance for him to return to the Ukrainian team, he blew it right there.
By March, it was a different narrative. Stepko stopped talking to the press, but AGF announced that he wouldn’t participate in the Baku World Cup because of personal problems. Stepko went to Ukraine.
Pavel Netreba said that Stepko had a conflict with his current coaches and might not return to Azerbaijan. However, Netreba didn’t think that Stepko would be welcomed on the Ukrainian national team because he pissed off a lot of people.
Gennady Sartynsky was asked about Pahniuk’s prospects on the national team in March and said that Pahniuk would need to prove himself first after leaving the Ukrainian team for Azerbaijan, while the rest of the gymnasts continued to represent their country.
Stepko came back to Azerbaijan, however, he was not doing gymnastics, just going to the regular weightlifting gym. He also put his house up for sale.
Then, in May, he moved to Novosibirsk and started training with Stretovich. There were still no official announcements about his future except for AGF saying that Stepko is taking a time-out and might not be returning to Baku.
Just last week, Sartynsky said that Pahniuk is back on the Ukrainian national team.
And today Stepko revealed that he is applying for the Russian citizenship right now and wants to try out for the Russian team. He’s training for the Russian Cup in August and he might even join the team for July’s camp at the Round Lake.
The interesting thing is that it wasn’t a big announcement in the press and neither the Russian or the Azerbaijani federations said something.
Stepko revealed this information in the chat of Viktoria Komova’s live Instagram video.
The information was new for Komova, too, as you can see in her surprised face.
At this moment, Stepko still holds an FIG license for Azerbaijan. If AGF will choose not to release him, he would have to wait three years before being able to compete for another country.