Vladimir Tuganov competed for Russia at the Athens 2004 and London 2012 Olympics ©Getty Images

Russian Equestrian Federation (FKSR) vice-president Vladimir Tuganov has stepped down from his role after switching sporting allegiance to Palestine to target the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Born in Vladikavkaz in south-eastern Russia, Tuganov continues to compete in International Equestrian Federation (FEI) events at the age of 61, representing Palestine at show in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates earlier this month.

He has competed for Russia in jumping at the Athens 2004 and London 2012 Olympic Games.

Russian and Belarusian athletes have been unable to compete in FEI events since the widely-condemned invasion of Ukraine, in line with recommendations from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IOC has recently moved to "explore a pathway" for athletes from both countries to return to international competitions under "strict conditions" of neutrality, a move which has prompted anger in Ukraine and threats of a boycott of Paris 2024.

Russian equestrian head coach Vladimir Beletsky told Russia's official state news agency TASS that he believed this was a "very difficult" decision for Tuganov, and expressed his belief that "as soon as Russian athletes begin to be allowed, Vladimir Petrovich will definitely return".

"Vladimir Petrovich Tuganov has strived all his life to compete in the biggest sports competitions, including the Olympic Games," Beletsky said.

"He is a very experienced athlete who has done a lot for his country, and he does not have time to calmly wait for the Russians to return to international starts, every year is expensive.

"His sports career has not many years left, so he wants to compete now and try to qualify for his third Olympics."

Christian Zimmermann is the only athlete who has represented Palestine in equestrian at the Olympics to date ©Getty Images
Christian Zimmermann is the only athlete who has represented Palestine in equestrian at the Olympics to date ©Getty Images

The FKSR said it was disappointed to lose Tuganov's services, but understood his position.

"Of course, the departure of each athlete of the national team is a serious loss for the country," it told TASS.

"However, in conditions when the participation of our athletes in international competitions is prohibited, we understand and accept the choice of each of them."

Tuganov joins fellow Russian riders Alexandra Maksakova and Yegor Shchibrik in switching allegiance to Palestine.

Shchibrik was named best athlete of 2021 by the FKSR, while Tuganov was named best jumper in 2017.

Tuganov is based at Milestone Farm in the Dutch village of Tienray.

Palestine has competed at every Summer Olympic Games since its recognition by the IOC in 1993.

German-born Christian Zimmermann is the only athlete who has previously represented Palestine in equestrian at the Olympics, competing in the individual dressage at Rio 2016.