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    EZETTIE LATUASV IVAKMHA CaroLiza_fan's Avatar
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    Possible alternative nationalities in singles skating

    Over the past few months, I have had many thoughts going around in my head. But, I decided to wait and see how things panned out at the World Championships before posting them to the forum.


    When the news broke about Takahashi and Tran splitting, we found out all the ins-and-outs of the Japanese rules on dual-nationality. And suddenly, a story from women’s ski jumping that had been puzzling me suddenly made sense.

    Atsuka Tanaka was born and raised in Calgary to a Japanese family. Growing up, she represented Canada, but we saw her switch to Japan at the start of the current Olympic cycle. Unfortunately for Tanaka, a Japanese “wonder-baby” in the form of Sara Takanashi came along around the same time.

    For those that don’t follow ski-jumping, Takanashi has built up really impressive record in the past few years:

    1st in the girls competition at the Youth Olympics in 2012;
    1st in the Junior World Championships in both 2012 and 2013;
    2nd in the (senior) World Championships in 2013;
    2nd in the 2011/12 season-long World Cup;
    1st in the 2012/13 season-long World Cup.

    And she is still only 16!

    Understandably, Takanashi has been getting all the attention of the Japanese team. So, Tanaka switched back to Canada at the end of the 2011/12 season. I couldn’t understand why she would switch in the middle of an Olympic cycle, until I found out a couple of months ago about the dual-nationality rules in Japan. Tanaka turned 21 at the end of January, so this was the last chance she had to switch countries.


    This started me thinking.

    Over the years, we have seen lots of ice dancers and pairs skaters changing the country they are representing, so as to have a better chance of getting selected for major international events.

    Normally, in these days of cross-border partnerships, it is just a case of switching to represent your partner’s country. But, sometimes, it is due to a legitimate family claim to an alternative nationality (by which I mean, you have at least one parent or one grandparent of that nationality). Cathy and Chris Reed would be a good example of this, having switched from the USA (American Dad) to Japan (Japanese Mum).

    But, you don’t seem to see singles skaters changing the country they are representing, even if they do have a legitimate family claim. I don’t really understand why this doesn’t happen much, as there are some skaters who are not getting selected by the country they are currently representing, who would be guaranteed a place if they used an alternative nationality.

    Agnes Zawadzki is a perfect example of this. Now, most people would be able to work out from her surname that Agnes is of Polish descent. As it happens, she has more than just the one Polish grandparent that would entitle her to represent Poland.

    I am just amazed that Agnes has not opted to switch to Poland, given how competitive it is to get into the American Ladies team. She would without doubt be guaranteed a place in the Polish team. After all, Poland has not entered anybody into international Ladies competitions since Anna Jurkiewicz in 2009. (I quite liked Anna, so I would like to know: what happened her? I looked at the Three Nationals results for the past few years there now, and saw that Anna hasn’t competed in Polish Nationals since 2011. Is she injured? Has she retired? I can’t seem to find out anywhere!)

    The first male skater that comes to mind is Elladj Baldé. He is currently skating for Canada, where it is very competitive for places in the Men’s team. Given that Patrick Chan and Kevin Reynolds have both won major competitions this year, that means that everybody else is realistically fighting over the 3rd slot. If you look at the results from Canadian Nationals, the guys that finished in 3rd (Rogozine), 4th (Baldé) and 5th (Firus) are all good enough to compete internationally, but they are all fighting over just one place.

    Admittedly, Rogozine and Baldé were both born in Moscow, but it is even more competitive to get into the Russian team, so I can understand why they don’t even try. But, although Baldé’s Mum is Russian, his Dad is Guinean. Nobody is currently representing Guinea in any category. So, I do not understand why Elladj and his team don’t take advantage of this and have him compete internationally as a one-man Guinean team.


    Which brings us perfectly onto the team I want to talk about: Russia

    We all know how competitive it is to get a place in the Russian team for international competitions. Indeed, for most of this season, a lot of threads on this forum have turned into debates (or, should that be “arguments”…) about who was going to get a place in the Russian team in both of the singles categories.

    After watching Russian Nationals, and seeing how competitive it is amongst the skaters that we don’t get to see at international level, it started wondering:

    Do any of the Russian singles skaters (male or female) have a legitimate family claim to an alternative nationality?

    For example, do any of the skaters from St. Pertersburg by any chance have an Estonian or Finnish grandparent? I don’t know too much about the demographic make-up of St. Petersburg, but due to the location of the city, I would expect it to have quite sizable communities from Finland or the Baltic States.

    Yes, it was the situation with Alena Leonova that started me thinking about this. I would hate to see her international career end now, as she has so given so much in recent years, and I truly believe she has so much more to give. Let’s face it, it was only last year that she was winning the silver medal at Worlds.

    But, we have to be realistic: Alena’s career representing Russia is over. There are just too many brilliant teenagers coming along. But it would be great if she was eligible to compete for another country.

    Incidentally, as well as Alena, 2 of the other skaters that we have been discussing are also from St. Petersburg. So, might Nikol Gosviani or Konstantin Menshov have this option as a back-up plan?

    We have already seen one Russian girl take herself out the equation. Last week, Moscow’s Polina Shelepen announced that she is to switch to competing for Israel. And she said that it was because of family connections.

    So, does anybody know if any of the other Russian skaters have the option of an alternative nationality due to a legitimate family connection (i.e. at least one parent or one grandparent of that nationality)?


    For the moment, I would like this discussion to stick to the Russian singles skaters, as that is the team that we have all been interested in and discussing all season.

    Although the ski jumping example I started with concerned a girl of Oriental descent, I would prefer it if this did not turn into a discussion about the Oriental Diaspora just yet. Frankly, there are so many skaters of Japanese or Chinese descent competing for other countries that we would be talking about them from now until doomsday!

    And anyway, it is already very competitive to get into the Japanese and Chinese teams. So I don’t think the respective Federations would like us giving them an even bigger selection nightmare by adding any more good skaters into the mix!

    CaroLiza_fan

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    Wow I never thought of that, Agnes Zawadzki representing Poland would certainly be a really good move for her! Currently not sure of any Russian skaters with different heritage yet I will look into it.

    Can you change representing countries if you live there for a certain amount of time?

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    Interesting topic.

    I'm always interested to learn about skaters connections to the countries they represent.

    "Baldé’s Mum is Russian, his Dad is Guinean. Nobody is currently representing Guinea in any category. So, I do not understand why Elladj and his team don’t take advantage of this and have him compete internationally as a one-man Guinean team."

    I believe to represent a country at ISU events, that country needs a National skating organization that is a member of the ISU.

    Also, as a top 5 competitor, the funding and support available to Eiladj in Canada is likely more than by being associated with other smaller skating organizations.

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Not that they need to do it, but Elena Ilinykh was born in Kazakhstan, and I&K would make an awesome start for a Kazakh team for the team event along with Denis Ten.
    http://www.isuresults.com/bios/isufs00011927.htm

    It's worth remembering that it seems fairly easy to switch back to Russia from a number of the former SSRs that are now independent countries; rules may differ going in the reverse direction. Consider how easily Volosozhar moved from Ukraine to Russia.

    A lot of the time, singles skaters move to a country relatively early in their careers. You may not know that Alisson Krystle PERTICHETO of PHI was born in & trains in Switzerland.

    http://www.isuresults.com/bios/isufs00013053.htm

    Melissa Bulanhagui skates for PHI. She was born & trains in the Pennsylvania area
    http://www.isuresults.com/bios/isufs00008997.htm

    Brittany Lau who skates for Singapore, was born in & trains in California
    http://www.isuresults.com/bios/isufs00012108.htm

    and so forth

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    Agnes Zawadzki - Poland
    Polina Agafonova - Azerbaijan
    Evgenia Gerasimova - Kyrgyzstan
    Polina Korobeynikova - Estonia
    Nikol Gosviani - Georgia
    Polina Shelepen - Israel
    Uliana Titushkina - Uzbekistan
    Maria Stavitskaia - Ukraine
    Anna Ovcharova - Switzerland
    some other B list skaters will benefit

    Zhan Bush - Israel
    Nam Nguyen - Vietnam

    some ice dance teams would also benefit from switching countries

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    Quote Originally Posted by sky_fly20 View Post
    Agnes Zawadzki - Poland
    Polina Agafonova - Azerbaijan
    Evgenia Gerasimova - Kyrgyzstan
    Polina Korobeynikova - Estonia
    Nikol Gosviani - Georgia
    Polina Shelepen - Israel
    Uliana Titushkina - Uzbekistan
    Maria Stavitskaia - Ukraine
    Anna Ovcharova - Switzerland
    some other B list skaters will benefit

    Zhan Bush - Israel
    Nam Nguyen - Vietnam

    some ice dance teams would also benefit from switching countries
    They were born in those country? Many Russians living in the former Soviet republics, so maybe they are Russians.

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    EZETTIE LATUASV IVAKMHA CaroLiza_fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Manotick View Post
    "Baldé’s Mum is Russian, his Dad is Guinean. Nobody is currently representing Guinea in any category. So, I do not understand why Elladj and his team don’t take advantage of this and have him compete internationally as a one-man Guinean team."

    I believe to represent a country at ISU events, that country needs a National skating organization that is a member of the ISU.
    Just out of curiosity, is that a hard thing to achieve?

    Guinea is already a member of the IOC, and has competed at the Summer Games 10 times, but has not competed at any Winter Games (perhaps not surprising for a West African country!) So, would this help in getting affiliation to a Winter Sports organisation?

    Quote Originally Posted by Manotick View Post
    Also, as a top 5 competitor, the funding and support available to Eiladj in Canada is likely more than by being associated with other smaller skating organizations.
    True. And in this climate, you have to make the most of whatever funding you can get!

    But, in an ideal world where there were not financial hurdles, it would be a dream story if a tropical African country had a good figure skater! Just think about "Cool Runnings"...


    Quote Originally Posted by dorispulaski View Post
    Not that they need to do it, but Elena Ilinykh was born in Kazakhstan, and I&K would make an awesome start for a Kazakh team for the team event along with Denis Ten.
    http://www.isuresults.com/bios/isufs00011927.htm
    Given that they have been Russia's top Dance team for a few years, switching would not help Elena and Nikita. But, it would certainly help some of the other Russian couples if they did!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by dorispulaski View Post
    A lot of the time, singles skaters move to a country relatively early in their careers. You may not know that Alisson Krystle PERTICHETO of PHI was born in & trains in Switzerland.

    http://www.isuresults.com/bios/isufs00013053.htm
    No, I didn't know that. But, I think she made a good move in choosing the Philippines over Switzerland. The Filipino Federation seems to have been getting behind their figure skaters more in recent years, and the team is rapidly improving as a result. I knew about Bulanhagui, though.


    Quote Originally Posted by sky_fly20 View Post
    Agnes Zawadzki - Poland
    Polina Agafonova - Azerbaijan
    Evgenia Gerasimova - Kyrgyzstan
    Polina Korobeynikova - Estonia
    Nikol Gosviani - Georgia
    Polina Shelepen - Israel
    Uliana Titushkina - Uzbekistan
    Maria Stavitskaia - Ukraine
    Anna Ovcharova - Switzerland
    some other B list skaters will benefit

    Zhan Bush - Israel
    Nam Nguyen - Vietnam

    some ice dance teams would also benefit from switching countries
    Thanks sky_fly20! Polina K and Gosviani were actually two of the Russian skaters I was specifically wondering about!

    However, as much I like Polina K, I would hate to see Elena Glebova lose her place on the Estonian team.

    Also, I can't really see Georgia swapping Gedevanishvili for Polina K, somehow! But, maybe if Elene does get back to her best and earns Georgia a second slot, it would be a good option for Polina.


    Thanks for the replies so far!

    CaroLiza_fan

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    no to Nam Nguyen! I like that we Canadians have him plus he'll fully come into his own the next olympic cycle at least he has a better coach now

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaroLiza_fan View Post

    For example, do any of the skaters from St. Pertersburg by any chance have an Estonian or Finnish grandparent? I don’t know too much about the demographic make-up of St. Petersburg, but due to the location of the city, I would expect it to have quite sizable communities from Finland or the Baltic States.
    LOL, there is no sizable Finnish communities in St.Petersburg, if any community at all. Finnish people seldom go to Russia even for a vacation. Although it is physically close, in every other aspect it's very far away.

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    Quote Originally Posted by glam View Post
    Finnish people seldom go to Russia even for a vacation.
    Any liquor store owner in St-Petersburg will tell you otherwise.

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    "Pogo" is a common first part of many Armenian surnames, but yes Pogorelay (which I assume Pogorilaya is derived from) is primarily Ukranian it would appear. Ukraine is located farther south compared to Russia so that could explain her darker complexion, but I'm still not convinced she doesn't have Armenian roots (a close friend of mine is part Armenian, and she has a sister that looks very similar to Anna - blonde with blue eyes but darker eyebrows and skin, very pretty!). But I am not sure. So far she seems to be doing okay representing Russia though, but perhaps in the future she could skate for Ukraine or Armenia!

    And ITA about Cesario and Italy. Also wonder about Yasmin and Armin skating for Iran. Have there ever been any Iranian skaters before? That would be cool, and they are both so quality, but not likely to go too far in the US.

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    Quote Originally Posted by silverlake22 View Post
    Also wonder about Yasmin and Armin skating for Iran. Have there ever been any Iranian skaters before? That would be cool, and they are both so quality, but not likely to go too far in the US.
    Iran is not a member of the ISU. I don't know that they have any ice rinks.

    In the 1970s I had a skating friend (in the US) whose father was from Iran and she used to joke about representing Iran. That was in the days of the Shah, before Islamic Revolution, so culturally it would have been more plausible then than now.

    I just did a search for "figure skating Iran" and came up with a few links about inline (roller) figure skating including videos and also a couple of sites that mentioned or focused on Yasmin Siraj.

    If inline figure skating is an option, then conceivably figure skating on ice could also be possible if the ice were available and the formation of a skating federation. But I don't expect that to happen within the careers of current senior-level competitors.

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    EZETTIE LATUASV IVAKMHA CaroLiza_fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    Iran is not a member of the ISU. I don't know that they have any ice rinks.

    In the 1970s I had a skating friend (in the US) whose father was from Iran and she used to joke about representing Iran. That was in the days of the Shah, before Islamic Revolution, so culturally it would have been more plausible then than now.

    I just did a search for "figure skating Iran" and came up with a few links about inline (roller) figure skating including videos and also a couple of sites that mentioned or focused on Yasmin Siraj.

    If inline figure skating is an option, then conceivably figure skating on ice could also be possible if the ice were available and the formation of a skating federation. But I don't expect that to happen within the careers of current senior-level competitors.
    I wasn't born until 1985, but from what I have heard, Iran was one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East before the Revolution. So, I wouldn't be surprised if they had been considering a figure skating programme. They might even have built a rink.

    But since the Revolution, figure skating would be a definite no-no! Especially for the females!

    Incidentally, I just repeated your search to find the roller videos. And I have to say, I was actually very impressed with what I saw!

    Quote Originally Posted by silverlake22 View Post
    Also wonder about Yasmin and Armin skating for Iran. Have there ever been any Iranian skaters before? That would be cool, and they are both so quality, but not likely to go too far in the US.
    I hadn't come across Yasmin before you mentioned her, and although I'd seen Armin at GP's, I couldn't remember anything about him. So, I just looked them both up.

    Armin's Wikipedia article didn't really talk much about his family background, except to tell us what his name means in Persian. So, according to Wikipedia, it would seem that Iran is his only other option.

    Yasmin's Wikipedia article, confirmed that her Mum is Iranian. However, it also told us that her Dad is from Saudi Arabia.

    Now, Saudi Arabia is a totally different matter. Although they like to think that they're strict, Saudi Arabia is more liberal than most other Muslim countries in the Middle East.

    And a quick search on Google tells us that they have at least one rink (in Jeddah)!!!

    So, Saudi Arabia would be a much better option for Yasmin. And hey, let's face it, there is no shortage of oil money to fund a figure skating programme for the country.

    CaroLiza_fan

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_A...t_the_Olympics

    Saudi Arabia needs a woman to represent it at the Winter Olympics, if it ever wants to field a team (which it hasn't, as yet) (see above what they had to go through at the last summer Olympics)

    The issue of women's participation





    Wojdan Shaherkani, first female competitor from Saudi Arabia to compete at any Olympics in any event, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, in Judo
    By Saudi Arabian law, women were, until recently, not permitted to compete in the Olympic Games.[1] However, following the International Olympic Committee pressuring the Saudi Olympic Committee to send female athletes to the 2012 Summer Olympics, in June 2012 the Saudi Embassy in London announced this had been agreed.[2][3]

    There were calls for Saudi Arabia to be barred from the Olympics until it permitted women to compete—notably from Anita DeFrantz, chair of the International Olympic Committee's Women and Sports Commission, in 2010.[4] In 2008, Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, likewise called for Saudi Arabia to be barred from the Games, describing its ban on women athletes as a violation of the International Olympic Committee charter. Stating that gender discrimination should be no more acceptable than racial discrimination, he noted: "For the last 15 years, many international nongovernmental organizations worldwide have been trying to lobby the IOC for better enforcement of its own laws banning gender discrimination. [...] While [its] efforts did result in increasing numbers of women Olympians, the IOC has been reluctant to take a strong position and threaten the discriminating countries with suspension or expulsion."[5]

    Dalma Rushdi Malhas competed at the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympics and won a bronze medal in equestrian (see Saudi Arabia at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics).

    Saudi Arabia agreed on July 12, 2012, to send two women to compete in the 2012 Olympic games in London, England. The two female athletes are Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo and 800-meter runner Sarah Attar.[6] Prior to June 2012, Saudi Arabia had banned female athletes from competing at the Olympics.[7] Every country competing at the London Games will include female athletes for the first time in Olympic history.[8]
    Perhaps she can compete for Bahrain, which has an indoor ski slope and may want to compete at the next winter olympics?

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    Quote Originally Posted by glam View Post
    LOL, there is no sizable Finnish communities in St.Petersburg, if any community at all. Finnish people seldom go to Russia even for a vacation. Although it is physically close, in every other aspect it's very far away.
    This is actually the topic of my PHD thesis, so perhaps I can shed some light on it!

    St Petersburg actually did have a sizable Finnish-speaking community for most of its history. They were known as the Ingrian Finns (Inkerisuomalaiset). Look them up on wikipedia! Most (about 65,000) left Russia after 1990 when the Finnish government announced they could receive Finnish residency permits. However, that law was reversed in 2010, so it wouldn't be much good to any skaters with Finnish ancestry left in Russia now.

    It is kind of true that Finns don't travel much to St Petersburg, even though it's so close. The complicated visa process (and high cost of visas) puts a barrier up, so it's not like you can just hop across to Russia from Helsinki like you can to Sweden or Estonia. It's a shame though, St Petersburg is very beautiful

    Anyway, can anyone tell me, what are Polina K's and Anna Ovcharova's connections to Estonia and Switzerland? I'm very curious!

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