Americans Skating for Other Countries
The United States has produced a steady stream of singles skaters who have competed at Worlds and Olympics, and in a number of occasions, the US has placed more than one skater on the podium. A few examples are:
1960 Olympics – Heiss (gold), Roles (bronze)
1990 Worlds – Trenary (gold), Cook (bronze)
1991 Worlds – US women swept the medals – Yamaguchi/Harding/Kerrigan.
1992 Olympics – Yamaguchi (gold), Kerrigan (bronze)
1998 Olympics – Lipinski (gold), Kwan (silver)
2002 Olympics – Hughes (gold), Kwan (bronze)
2004 Worlds – Cohen (silver), Kwan (bronze)
1952 Olympics – Button (gold), Grogan (bronze)
1956 Olympics – US men swept the medals (H Jenkins/Robertson/D Jenkins)
Single medals won by US men –
1964 Olympics – Allen (bronze)
1968 Olympics – Wood (silver)
1984 Olympics – Hamilton (gold)
1988 Olympics – Boitano (gold)
1992 Olympics – Wylie (silver)
While these wonderful skaters were a blessing, they posed a problem for the rest of the Americans who were vying for team positions. The point I’m trying to make is that there have been a number of very talented American women and men who never had the opportunity to skate at Worlds and/or Olympics because they could not skate past the current crop of top US skaters to make the US team. These 4th, 5th, and 6th place skaters probably could have won the national title of a number of countries (excluding Russia and Japan, of course), or at least medaled in those competitions. In some cases, these skaters took the route of using their dual citizenship to represent their “second” country so that they could compete at the Worlds and/or Olympic Games. I, for one, never faulted them for doing so. They wanted to compete, and they did what they needed to do, within the rules of the game.
One example is Patricia Neske, a Californian holding dual-German citizenship who represented Germany at several World championships. Neske was a competent skater who did not have a realistic chance of outskating the then-top US women (Jill Trenary, Kristi Yamaguchi, Tonya Harding, etc). She finished in the top ten at Worlds, which was a wonderful accomplishment for her.
Diane de Leeuw, another California, chose to represent the Netherlands at Worlds and Olympics in the 1970s. Diane was a very talented skater, who quite frankly, did not need to go this route (or at least it seems) in order to skate in those competitions. She won the 1975 World title over Dorothy Hamill and Christine Errath, and she won the 1976 Olympic silver medal behind Hamill. Perhaps she wanted to compete at Worlds and the Olympics as the National Champion, and she felt that Hamill was “the anointed one” to hold that title in this country.
Alice Sue Clayes, a native of Georgia (US), represented Belgium at Worlds. Alice Sue had won the US Junior title in 1989 but she never came close to winning a medal at nationals at the senior level. Her decision to skate for Belgium seemed to be the right one for her, and even though she did not break into the top ten at Worlds, at least she competed there.
Tonia Kwiakowski shared the ice with Yamaguchi, Kerrigan, Harding, Kwan, Lapinski, and other top US skaters. She competed at Nationals a number of years before she even reached the podium. I remember her victory at the St. Ivel competition back in 1989. She was 18 at the time, young, fresh, and talented. The British commentators remarked that Tonia had finished “only eighth” at US Nationals the previous season and that she would probably win the national title of any of a number of countries. Tonia remained in the USFSA system, but I wondered if she ever had the opportunity to skate for another country. In her case, IMHO, if such a chance existed, she certainly could have taken it. I was so happy for her when she finally did qualify for Worlds.