The U.S. is represented by natural born citizens as well as naturalized U.S. citizens, who were born abroad, in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The 2016 U.S. Olympic Team comprises of 555 athletes, out of which 48 athletes were born abroad. While few of them were born abroad to U.S. citizen parents, some came to the U.S. as kids with their parents and some came here to attend college or to work here. This means, 8.5 percent of Olympians from the U.S. are foreign born.
Basketball player Kyrie Irving; rugby player Madison Hughes; water polo player Tony Azevedo and equestrain Boyd Martin were born on foreign soil to U.S. citizen parents. Many others are children of immigrants who came to the U.S. in search of better lives for themselves and their children. President Obama said that Team USA shows that the U.S. is different from other countries. He said that America, a “nation of immigrants”, strengthens itself in its diversity.
Following are some of them who belong to Team USA who remind us of how people from across the globe, come here and contribute to the country.
- Tervel Dlagnev, heavyweight freestyle wrestler told Voice of America that his parents fled Bulgaria, in 1989. Sofia in Bulgaria is where he was born. He was just three years old when they left the country. They were then stationed in Austria in a refugee camp. They moved to San Diego once his parents received their documentation to get to the U.S. That was when his father joined the U.S. Army. For Dlagnev, Rio is the second Olympics.
- Denis Kudla, a member of Team USA was born in Kiev, Ukraine. Just like Dlagnev, he too came to the U.S. with his parents when he was a child.
- Hillary Bor, Paul Chelimo, Shadrack Kipchirchir, and Leonard Korir, immigrated to the U.S. from Kenya. They all enlisted in the U.S. Army and obtained U.S. citizenship. They trained with the U.S. military’s World Class Athlete Program and are now a part of Team USA.
- Shooter Enkelejda Shehaj who competed for Albania in 1996 is now competing for the U.S. She fled to the U.S. with her family when the government of her home country collapsed. She told NBC Sports that she came to the U.S. with just two suitcases: one with her clothes and the other one with her medals, diplomas and magazines with articles written about her. She became a U.S. citizen in 2012 and is now a part of Team USA in Rio.
- Australian born equestrian Phillip Dutton is one of the oldest members of Team USA. His three different horseback riding skills helped him win an Olympic medal in Rio. He has already won two gold medals for Australia, in Sydney and Atlanta. He started competing for the U.S. from 2006 after becoming a U.S. citizen. This is his sixth Olympic appearance.
- Runner Charles Jock in Team USA, was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His parents fled civil war in Sudan to Ethiopia. He was three when his parents came to U.S. where there were granted asylum. He settled in San Diego with his family and is now running for the U.S.
Just like the above Olympians, there are many others who were born abroad and are now competing for the U.S. They are all proudly representing their adopted home country, the U.S. in Rio.