Lithuanian president rejects US ice dancer’s citizenship bid

November 7th, 2009 - 12:53 am ICT by IANS  

Vilnius (Lithuania), Nov 6 (DPA) US ice dancing star Katherine Leigh Copely has lost her bid to gain Lithuanian citizenship and thus her ability to represent Lithuania in next year’s Olympics.
Copley’s application for Lithuanian citizenship was rejected by the Baltic state’s President Dalia Grybauskaite, the president’s press office confirmed Friday.

“President Dalia Grybauskaite has decided to withhold the granting of citizenship under exceptional circumstances to United States of America citizen Katherine Leigh Copely,” an official statement said.

The move dashes the ice dancer’s chances of representing Lithuania in international competitions, including next year’s Vancouver Winter Olympics, with her Lithuanian ice dancing partner Deividas Stagniunas.

The pair are the reigning Lithuanian champions and finished 14th at this year’s Ice Dancing World Championships. But Olympic competition demands that pairs skaters are both from the same country.

Strict rules govern Lithuanian citizenship, with blood ties usually required, but under exceptional circumstances citizenship can be granted by the president to foreign nationals if such action would be of “indisputable merit” and if the individual is “integrated into Lithuanian society” and has developed “permanent links” to the country.

In October, a citizenship commission said that though Copely’s application had the potential to bring merit to Lithuania, she had not exhibited sufficient evidence of integration or developed permanent links to the country.

President Grybauskaite could have overruled that decision but instead backed it, saying citizenship constituted “a permanent relationship between the individual and the state”.

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