American-born Vic Wild won his second snowboarding gold medal of the Sochi Olympics in parallel slalom. However, those medals won’t show up in the official medal tally for Team USA.
Wild is just the latest example that shows citizenship for the Olympics is sometimes more about talent than birthplace.
Wild and speed skater Victor An have now combined to win five of Russia’s 10 gold medals in Sochi even though neither was a Russian citizen the last time the Olympics were held.
Wild is competing in the Olympics for Team Russia after becoming a Russian citizen in 2012. Wild is married to a Russian snowboarder. However he was recruited by a Russian coach before getting married.
An, a speed skater who previously competed for South Korea in the Olympics, has won three gold medals for Russia. He became a Russian citizen in 2011 after falling out of favour with the South Korean team.
Wild and An are not alone.
Lascelles Brown won two medals in bobsleigh for Canada after originally competing as a bobsledder for his native Jamaica in 2002. In 2006, Canadian figure skater Tanith Belbin won silver for the United States after having her citizenship status expedited.
There are also “Olympic tourists,” such as American Gary di Silvestri and his Italian wife Angelica, who were the only Olympic representatives of the tiny island nation, Dominica. “Olympic tourists” is the nickname given to wealthy people who fulfil their Olympic fantasy through other countries that might not normally send athletes.
On the one hand, you want to see the best athletes competing in the Olympics. But the sense of national pride becomes a little fuzzy when the international borders are blurred.
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