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Thread: Possible alternative nationalities in singles skating

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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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    Rinkside
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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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    Custom Title plushyfan's Avatar
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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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    Quote Originally Posted by plushyfan View Post
    They were born in those country? Many Russians living in the former Soviet republics, so maybe they are Russians.
    no some are just random I thought of
    but some have affiliation I suppose Shelepen is part Jewish and Gosviyani is Georgian

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    Trixie Schuba's biggest fan! blue dog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaroLiza_fan View Post
    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?


    In order to compete at the Olympics, you must qualify at Worlds or the Olympic Qualifying competition, and to meet the season's TES requirement, which means being an ISU member. In order for your federation to be an ISU member, your country must have something like at least two ice surfaces.

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    Custom Title plushyfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sky_fly20 View Post
    no some are just random I thought of
    but some have affiliation I suppose Shelepen is part Jewish and Gosviyani is Georgian
    Oh, I see.

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    For requirements for a national skating organization to become a member of the ISU, see p. 16 of the ISU general regulations.

    Most of it is administrative procedure: a headquarters office located in the country (although even that could be tricky if all the skaters who want to represent the country live and train elsewhere, as do their supporters who want to found a national federation), an organization with a constitution and bylaws and officers, etc.

    But also, they can be accepted as a full member of the ISU, they have to hold national championships (which means they need to have enough skaters to compete against each other at some levels, not necessarily senior), they have to hold seminars or schools for officials, and they need to have an active ice rink in the country (natural or artificial -- obviously natural would only be possible in a cold climate) large enough to practice the sport.

    At least there's a case that figure skating can be practiced on an ice surface smaller than Olympic or even NHL size -- for speedskating, they really need the officially sized surfaces.

    In most cases a new federation would be a provisional ISU member for 2 years before being accepted as a full member.

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    The answer to the question why do certain skaters do not switch nationalities (f.eg. Agnes) is (I guess) they just wouldn't feel comfortable with it. I'm just thinking, but maybe Agnes doesn't feel like a polish girl, so she would feel bad if she skated for Poland. Competing against the skaters from the country you truly love may be hard for some people, they may think they would have to deal with lots of critisism, we never know. So the problem with switching countries may be more psychological than political or whatever. Poland would be definitely willing to take Agnes, some of our sporstman don't speak polish at all yet we still love them .

    As for the question regarding Anna Jurkiewicz - there are no articles in polish about her after 2010-11. Polish wikipedia says that since 2000 she struggled with injuries, losing her mum and weight problems, she quit skating in 2003 because of a back injury but came back in 2006. After Vancouver (where she finished last) she wanted to retire but instead switched to Dorota Zagórska and Mariusz Siudek to train in Axel club in Toruń. Both wikipedia and her isu bio indicate she's not retired but she hasn't competed since 2011 nationals (where she placed 1st).

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    EZETTIE LATUASV IVAKMHA CaroLiza_fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blue dog View Post
    In order to compete at the Olympics, you must qualify at Worlds or the Olympic Qualifying competition, and to meet the season's TES requirement, which means being an ISU member. In order for your federation to be an ISU member, your country must have something like at least two ice surfaces.
    Quote Originally Posted by gkelly View Post
    For requirements for a national skating organization to become a member of the ISU, see p. 16 of the ISU general regulations.

    Most of it is administrative procedure: a headquarters office located in the country (although even that could be tricky if all the skaters who want to represent the country live and train elsewhere, as do their supporters who want to found a national federation), an organization with a constitution and bylaws and officers, etc.

    But also, they can be accepted as a full member of the ISU, they have to hold national championships (which means they need to have enough skaters to compete against each other at some levels, not necessarily senior), they have to hold seminars or schools for officials, and they need to have an active ice rink in the country (natural or artificial -- obviously natural would only be possible in a cold climate) large enough to practice the sport.

    At least there's a case that figure skating can be practiced on an ice surface smaller than Olympic or even NHL size -- for speedskating, they really need the officially sized surfaces.

    In most cases a new federation would be a provisional ISU member for 2 years before being accepted as a full member.
    So, in other words, there's little or no hope!

    As gkelly says, with only one skater, they couldn't hold National Championships as there would be no other entries. Well, at least in the immediate future, anyway. Maybe building a couple of rinks would attract more people to take up the sport, but it would take years before these skaters were ready to compete against Elladj.

    And I can't see a small African country investing in building one rink, and then paying to keep it running, never mind two! Especially if they were unlikely to be used regularly, as the star skater was away training in North America!

    But, it was worth considering.

    Thank you both for clarifying the requirements

    CaroLiza_fan

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    EZETTIE LATUASV IVAKMHA CaroLiza_fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cherryy View Post
    The answer to the question why do certain skaters do not switch nationalities (f.eg. Agnes) is (I guess) they just wouldn't feel comfortable with it. I'm just thinking, but maybe Agnes doesn't feel like a polish girl, so she would feel bad if she skated for Poland. Competing against the skaters from the country you truly love may be hard for some people, they may think they would have to deal with lots of critisism, we never know. So the problem with switching countries may be more psychological than political or whatever. Poland would be definitely willing to take Agnes, some of our sporstman don't speak polish at all yet we still love them .
    As you probably know, I am from Northern Ireland. People from Northern Ireland automatically have dual-nationality, so we are able to compete for either Great Britain or for the Republic of Ireland. For example, figure skater Jenna McCorkell has declared for Great Britain, while rower Richard Archibald has declared for Ireland. Both are from the town of Coleraine.

    And every time a sportsperson declares for one country or the other, they come under intensive criticism from supporters of the other country.

    So, I can totally relate to what you are saying about the criticism Agnes may face.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cherryy View Post
    As for the question regarding Anna Jurkiewicz - there are no articles in polish about her after 2010-11. Polish wikipedia says that since 2000 she struggled with injuries, losing her mum and weight problems, she quit skating in 2003 because of a back injury but came back in 2006. After Vancouver (where she finished last) she wanted to retire but instead switched to Dorota Zagórska and Mariusz Siudek to train in Axel club in Toruń. Both wikipedia and her isu bio indicate she's not retired but she hasn't competed since 2011 nationals (where she placed 1st).
    And thank you for attempting to find out about Anna for me. The English wikipedia only really had results, and the Polish version didn't talk about anything past her coach change. And as for her website, it hasn't been updated since 2007!

    Mind you, I just searched for her on Facebook, and it says she is living in Sarpsborg, Norway.

    So, maybe that's why we are having difficulty finding out anything more recent!

    Thank you again

    CaroLiza_fan

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    Quote Originally Posted by CaroLiza_fan View Post
    And thank you for attempting to find out about Anna for me. The English wikipedia only really had results, and the Polish version didn't talk about anything past her coach change. And as for her website, it hasn't been updated since 2007!

    Mind you, I just searched for her on Facebook, and it says she is living in Sarpsborg, Norway.

    So, maybe that's why we are having difficulty finding out anything more recent!

    Thank you again

    CaroLiza_fan
    Yeah, I searched in different sources and there are many inconsistencies in her bio. Some sites say she had a back injury in 2003, some say it was the knee that had to heel, in another one it was written that it was mainly the weight problem - it's impossible to say which one is true. The information I found about her training in Poznań is also a rather old one, so you're probbably right she's in Norway if her facebook says so. It just shows figure skating in Poland is so much unappreciated.

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