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JOC willing to work with Tran on citizenship issue

World pairs bronze medalist considering changing nationality to compete in Sochi

Mervin Tran appears to be leaning toward applying for Japanese citizenship.
Mervin Tran appears to be leaning toward applying for Japanese citizenship. (Getty Images)

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By icenetwork.com
(04/27/2012) - The president of the Japanese Olympic Committee said Thursday he would assist Mervin Tran in obtaining Japanese citizenship so the skater could become eligible to represent the country at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Tran, who won the pairs bronze medal at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships in Nice, France, with partner Narumi Takahashi, has expressed interest in applying for Japanese citizenship, tweeting Monday, April 23: "I will continue to think critically about my decision as I would very much like to go."

Tran was born in Regina, Saskatchewan, and has lived in Canada his whole life. He and Takahashi train in St. Leonard, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal, under Richard Gauthier and Bruno Marcotte.

The ISU allows pairs and dance teams whose members are not citizens of the same country to compete at its championships. However, International Olympic Committee rules state that both members must have the same nationality to take part in the Games.

Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the JOC, said Thursday his committee "was willing to make a special request (on behalf of Tran) to the government if necessary."

Japan has strict criteria for becoming a citizen, including maintaining residency in the country for at least five years. Japan's immigration laws also rule out dual nationality, meaning Tran would have to give up his Canadian citizenship.

Tran's hope lies in something called the Nationality Act, which states that the Diet of Japan (Japanese Congress) may confer Japanese nationality to a person who has provided extraordinary service to Japan, similar to the "aliens of extraordinary ability" provision that was invoked in expediting Tanith Belbin's U.S. citizenship prior to the 2006 Olympics. This provision, however, has never been invoked in Japan.

Tran told AFP last November, "For everyone, their nationality is important as it is. But, in the end, it's what can we do to achieve our goals."

By winning the bronze in Nice, Takahashi and Tran became the first Japanese pair to medal at the world figure skating championships.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.