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Sportsmen Switch Countries to Get Olympic Medals
August 19, 2008 16:50

Becky Hammon

To get Olympic medals more and more sportsmen represent non-native countries. American sportsmen can play for a Russian team and Russian for American. Though it doest contradict the Olympic rules, international sport organizations start expressing more concern about it.

Various reasons motivate sportsmen to represent another country. Some sportsmen have ancestors born in those countries, some are ruled by money, and for others it is the only chance to get to the Olympic Games.

After missing qualifying to join the U.S. Women's National Basketball Team at the Beijing Olympics, Becky Hammon, a US professional basketball player, had to choose another way, she decided to play for Russia. Hammon became a Russian citizen earlier in 2008. The coach of Russia's team, Igor Grudin, also the sports director of the CSKA team that Hammon plays for in Moscow during the WNBA off-season, announced that she would participate in camps for the Russian national team. It was the same day that it was also announced that national team player (and CSKA teammate of Hammon's) Olga Arteshina had become pregnant.

Becky says she just wanted to get to the Beijing Olympics.

‘Such an opportunity occurs only once a life,’ tells Hammon. ‘I had to face a choice either to come back home and watch the Olympics on TV like everybody or to take part in them. So to take the decision was rather easy.’

In Becky’s opinion the Olympics’ aim is to give the opportunity to the best world sportsmen to meet, and it doesn’t matter where they are from. Her American coach called Becky ‘not a patriotic person’. Hammon considers such an attitude hypocritical.

‘If you go deeper into the issue you will find out that hundreds of sportsmen have done like this,’ Hammon sais. ‘My case has drown too much attention to this. America has done it. Lots of sportsmen, born in other countries, have won medals for America.’

 Israeli David Blatt, the Russian basketball men’s team coach, is training American JR Holden, who has been playing professionally in Russia since 1998. In 2003 Russian President gave JR Russian citizenship. So now he is a dual citizen of both Russia and America. In 2008 Holden’s throw brought Russia the European gold medal and now Holden is playing at the Beijing Olympics for the Russian team.

‘My friends in America cannot believe I am playing in the Russian uniform. They will be surprised when they see me at the Beijing Olympics in a game against American Dream Team,’ said Holden.

America has got medals at Russia’s expense.

Nastia Liukin won the gold medal in the women’s individual all-around artistic gymnastics final at the National Indoor Stadium on August 15 at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games with a final score of 63.325. And later on August 18 she won the silver medal during the uneven bars apparatus finals.

Nastia Liukin was born in Moscow and moved to the USA in early childhood. Nastia’s father, Valery Lukin, a Soviet Olympic champion, who won two gold and two silver medals in Seoul, is Nastia’s coach.

Alexander Artemov, a son of fourfold Olympic champion in Seoul Vladimir Artemov, who represented the USSR, got bronze medal in team competition in gymnastics. Vladimir Artemov, his son’s coach, now lives in Colorado, the USA.

Alexander didn’t know he will be lucky to perform at the Olympics. But after Paul Hamm, the Athens Olympic champion, broke his arm in May and his brother Morgan Hamm had to leave on the eve of the Olympics because of an injury, Alexander Artemov, 22, was included into the first team.

Two crucial errors by the Americans on the pommel horse left them dreaming bronze. But Alexander Artemov's high marks for his pommel horse performance gave the team necessary points to get the bronze medal.

Now Alexander may hope for higher results at London Olympics 2014.


Irina Fomina


Tags: sports     

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