Why I’m Angry About Belarus

screen-shot-2015-06-14-at-2-39-13-am

Yesterday afternoon, International Gymnast reported that two U.S. gymnasts – Alaina Kwan and Kylie Dickson – are going to compete at this year’s World Championships for the nation of Belarus.

I’m not typically against change-of-nation requests for gymnasts competing at the international level. Most of the time, it’s gymnasts with legitimate ties to other countries, often countries with bare-bones gymnastics programs or no actively-competing elite-level gymnasts. And in cases where there are already elites, there’s generally a selection process through which everyone is given a fair shot at making a team.

In 2011, Austin Sheppard competed as a member of the Hungarian team at World Championships. She had dual citizenship through her parents and her brother Ryan is actually competing in Hungary now as well. As a Hungarian elite, Sheppard competed at European Championships and several World Cup events because she was required to go through the same selection process as the other Hungarian gymnasts, and she spent her time leading up to Worlds that year training in Hungary with the team. When it came down to Olympic selection, Hungary had only one spot available and it went to Dorina Boczogo, fair and square.

This year, Ava Verdeflor of the U.S. will represent the Philippines, and in her case, she approached the program when there was no one else really contending for spots, earning a slot at the Youth Olympic Games last summer and posting the best results for the nation at the Southeast Asian Games this summer. She has citizenship because she was born in the country and lived there until age two, and was selected fairly after representing the country in other tests over the past year.

Then there are the gymnasts bringing life to programs that were all but nonexistent. Danusia Francis of Great Britain, who is half-Jamaican, will compete for Jamaica alongside U.S. gymnast Toni-Ann Williams, who has competed for Jamaica for years. In their cases, Jamaica doesn’t really have a national program, so any representation is good representation. The same goes for U.S.-based gymnasts who have competed for nations like Panama and Trinidad & Tobago in recent years.

Azerbaijan is another similar example, the nation rising to gymnastics fame over this quad after they became the land of misfit toys for the Russians who had been put out to pasture (their national team is currently comprised of seven women, all of whom relocated from Russia). Though injuries in 2014 meant they couldn’t contend for a team spot at this year’s Worlds, they’ve had some great success considering the program literally didn’t exist only years ago, and they’ve inspired many young Azeri girls to try the sport, in essence using their status to build the program for the future of the sport so they won’t have to pull from Russia any longer.

But Belarus has a women’s program. They have a team of gymnasts, six of whom have represented their nation internationally in 2015 and two of whom – Sviatlana Lifenka and Valeryia Tsekhmistrenka – were named to the nominative roster for Worlds. Natallia Yakubava represented the country at the Youth Olympic Games last summer, making the beam finals (and she is excellent there, with a roundoff layout and a big double pike). At Worlds, Anastasiya Yekimenka and Anastasiya Miklashevich both competed well, with Yekimenka finishing above gymnasts from much more established programs on her three events and Miklashevich showing beautiful work on bars. And Aliaksandra Koshaleva was a new senior this year, but showed promise at both the European Championships and European Games, increasing her difficulty on all of her events in the short span between the two meets.

These are the names of the young gymnasts – most are 16 and in their first year of senior competition – who are being shoved aside to make room for two Americans who qualified to elite in March of this year and have exactly one domestic elite competition under their belts. Americans who have never stepped foot in Belarus, and who will not visit Belarus prior to representing the country in major international competition.

How does this even happen? From what we’ve gathered, it seems as though All Olympia head coaches Artur Akopyan and Galina Marinova approached Nellie Kim – President of the FIG Women’s Technical Committee and vice president of the Belarusian Gymnastics Federation – about sending Dickson and Kwan to represent Belarus after the two failed to qualify to U.S. nationals (both missed the all-around cutoff of 54.0 by over two points). Kim, who has been trying to build the Belarusian program internally, apparently loved the idea and the three got to work obtaining citizenship for the girls.

In Belarus – as with many under-developed nations – the citizenship and residency requirements are pretty lenient, but they also don’t just hand out passports willy-nilly to people who have never stepped foot in the country. Belarusian citizenship can be obtained by birth (like if one of your parents is a citizen), by naturalization (if you’ve lived there for seven years, know one of the state languages, have legal income, and have no foreign citizenship), or by registration (if you lived in Belarus before the USSR crumbled or were adopted).

The AOGC girls fit none of these criteria, though there are loopholes when it comes to naturalization. According to the Citizenship Act of 2002, the seven year period of residence required for naturalization can be “reduced” for several categories of people, including those “who can make significant contributions to the development of Belarus.” With scores slightly better than any of the Belarusian national gymnasts, Kim could’ve made a great case for Dickson and Kwan, noting the success of the U.S. program, the success of their own gym (which most famously produced 2012 Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney), and the success of Azerbaijan’s program using a similar strategy. It’s a no-brainer for Belarus.

But is it? Will Dickson and Kwan actually bolster the program that much more than Lifenka or Tsekhmistrenka would have? Their Classics scores from this summer would’ve put them around 60th place in last year’s Worlds all-around whereas the Belarusian all-arounders would’ve been closer to 100th. Aren’t 60th place and 100th place about the same when neither results in more than the other? There are no finals, all-around or otherwise, in store for the Americans, just as there would have been no finals for the Belarusians and the majority of those not in top programs. So why give spots to gymnasts with no relation to your program instead of building the confidence and performance ability of the girls who have spent their entire lives training in Belarus when neither outcome is going to result in anything different?

In their interview with International Gymnast, both Dickson and Kwan express a desire to help the struggling programs of Eastern Europe. “They are losing gymnasts because they think the U.S. is always going to win and they can never meet that expectation,” Kwan hypothesized. “But with us going it’s showing…that you can still do it, but we just need more of you to come out.” Dickson agreed and “wants to show them that their dreams can come true.” She continues by saying if they want to be elite, all they have to do is “give it a lot of dedication and time and patience.”

But they have given it dedication and time and patience. In this situation, Dickson and Kwan could learn a thing or two from Lifenka, Tsekhmistrenka, Yakubava, Yekimenka, Miklashevich, and Koshaleva, all of whom have extensive international experience that absolutely trumps Dickson and Kwan’s single U.S. Classic meet. These six have come up in a struggling program with nowhere near the training facilities and opportunities available to Dickson and Kwan and have still managed to have an international presence. It’s a weak one, yes, but event finals aren’t going to happen overnight. Their dedication has gotten them this far, and could’ve taken them even further if given the chance. You can show them that their dreams can come true? Their dreams were about to come true until you showed up! How’s that for irony?

The attitude of these teenage Americans is ethnocentrism and the “white savior complex” at its finest, i.e. that well-intentioned notion people from the developed west have where they think they can fix everything in “poor” countries even when nothing is actually truly broken. I hate brushing off teenage girls as uneducated or clueless because teenage girls are awesome and smart and usually know better. But with their ignorance, these two 16-year-old almost-adults manage to disrespect the Belarusian program in their interview, where they fully admit that they haven’t even had association with the Belarusian team themselves and don’t really know anything about it. And yet they’re somehow experts on Eastern Europe’s decline in the sport and confidently express their ability to single-handedly fix it?

Despite their lack of knowledge about the program or about the girls whose spots they’re taking, I don’t blame the gymnasts and don’t think anyone should (though I do wish someone would’ve coached them through that interview, because they’re taking a brunt of the negativity instead of the adult decision-makers). I’m sure they’re very sweet girls and I wish them the best of luck. It wasn’t their idea, and they should be excited about getting an opportunity like this when far superior gymnasts in the U.S. attending the Worlds selection camp this week won’t get to go. It’s a chance of a lifetime and I’m sure any other gymnast training in a program with depth would kill for a similar circumstance. They have the right to be happy and excited, and likely don’t know the hurt they’re actually causing in accepting their coaches’ and Kim’s offer, so their off-putting comments stem from a place of ignorance, not intentional disrespect.

But they should know that their attending Worlds is going to make things worse in Belarus, not better. Since this has happened, two of Belarus’ most promising new seniors – Yakubava and Koshaleva, best friends and both members of this summer’s European Games squad who had the time of their lives in the team competition, always with huge smiles for the camera – have withdrawn their FIG licenses meaning they can no longer compete internationally. That’s one-third of their senior team, so clearly the American invasion is already having devastating effects.

Instead of inspiring gymnasts in Belarus, all this decision does is teach young Belarusian gymnasts that it doesn’t matter how good they are or how much they improve. Girls from the U.S. with money and power and connections will just wind up stealing their spots. It’s the opposite of the work being done in Azerbaijan and other formerly nonexistent programs. Nothing is building. Instead, a young but blossoming program is going to crumble, and I’m furious at the Belarusian Federation for letting it happen.

In the Belarusian Federation’s announcement today, they specifically say that the decision to send Dickson and Kwan should not be viewed with hostility. It seems that their plan, according to deputy chairman Antonina Pouch, is to earn an Olympic spot using the talents of the American girls, which will boost their international presence considerably. But if they earn that spot and then send one of the Americans to the Olympic Games in lieu of one of their own gymnasts, it’s doing absolutely nothing for their program.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

Advertisements

77 thoughts on “Why I’m Angry About Belarus

  1. PREACH!
    You summed it up so well. It was already bothersome that they got the spots within an already existing program without any competition for that country(and only just one ‘big’ competition under their belt), but their attitude is the cherry on top of the wank.

    Like

  2. Very well said, Lauren. I’m interested to see how Martha/USAG is going to respond to this new development. Especially if this is becoming a trend in the future.

    “oh, can’t make it to the US team? Let’s just go to some other country and get citizenship there so we can compete in the world stage by any means.”

    Like

    • Why would Marta or USAG care? It’s not as if these girls were medal contenders for the U.S. and would now come anywhere near threatening US success….

      Like

  3. Kwan and Dickson competing for Belarus makes no sense whatsoever. I am baffled. How can two American born and lived gymnasts just go to a whole new country and claim its nationality?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I completely agree with everything you’ve said Lauren – this shouldn’t have been allowed to happen & is such a shame for the the Belarusarian gymnasts.

    Like

  5. Those young gymnasts would probably have no chance to make big international meets with the US team. So I think it is perfectly normal to take the opportunity to compete for another country in order to fulfill their goals.
    What’s wrong with that ? Your country won’t offer you to go to the Olympics, another one will, well nobody can blame you for taking that opportunity !
    Besides, you seem to forget that many coaches in the US are foreign (China, Russia, Romania, etc…), and that a big part of the US team is in fact instructed by non-US born teachers.
    Anyway don’t worry, the USA still have a long list of great gymnasts for Rio, so where is the problem ? i think you should just let those girls do whatever they want, and respect their choices.

    Like

    • As I stated in the article, it has nothing to do with the fact that they’re transplants. It has to do with the fact that they’re not even going to Belarus and are claiming citizenship, taking spots away from actual Belarusian citizens who have been training for this their whole lives. I don’t blame them for taking the opportunity. I blame the Belarusian program for offering it.

      Liked by 5 people

    • That’s not the point…it’s not the spirit of competing at worlds and the Olympics. Its about representing your country. For an Olympic spot you need to be top 24, so they’ve made no improvement to the program, but instead hurt it. 16 years is old enough to know better, let alone the fact that no adult in this situation has said no. It’s not at all about them leaving the US because we all can agree the US is no affected by them leaving. It’s not about “picking a team”, this isn’t the NFL. It’s absolute disrespect to the Belarus program and its gymnasts (who my heart goes out to) and as an American, I am embarrassed.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. In other news, I saw today that Ostapenko will head up the Belarussian WAG program starting in January. Hopefully that will turn things around for the homegrown gymnasts, although the lack of resources/funding would presumably still be a big issue.

    Like

    • Just saw that as well…yeah, they certainly seem to be making a lot of changes and taking steps to better things and if this whole thing is a means to get a spot at Rio where they’ll send an actual Belarusian gymnast, then I’m okay with that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Very true. I agree the end would justify the means if they send a BLR girl to Rio. In time, I believe Ostapenko can bring about positive results, but it probably won’t be before Rio. He’ll most likely also be dealing with hurt feelings/frustrations on behalf of the current and prospective BLR girls who will now be afraid of losing spots to other Americans in the future. Sad situation all around.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Totally agree. Sigh. I like this program a lot so it’s very disheartening to see it going through the ringer like this. I loved watching these girls at Euro Games…they had more fun than anyone! A shame that this is now their experience.

          Liked by 1 person

      • I mean I like to justify something but I don’t know if I can… What’s to prevent other nations from copying this and start offering other low end US girls (that still get better scores than natives) to try to secure a rio spot? It’s really setting a bad precedent of “legal” cheating…

        Also, who’s to prevent another nation from just brushing aside their natives as if they meant nothing like in this case again?

        Also if they decided to use this same ruse to do qual at test event in rio, then spot is actually attached to an athelete name and not just to a federation. And who to say that they won’t try to do that? So now you got these girls who didn’t even qual to nationals get a chance to compete in rio when so many other us gymnasts much better than them get to sit at home while they’re in rio?

        There are just too many things that are wrong and too many bad implications. Any good (if we can even use this phrase ?) will just be much outweighed by so many other negatives. This just need to stop here!!

        FIG needs to start setting some rules about this…How about this to start: you have to have gone through the federation national championship or trial before you can be named and also reside at least 6 month in the nation if he/she has no first degree family tie to the nation. For someone like Danusia, who I don’t see any problem competing for Jamaica wouldn’t have any problem legitimately following this rule. For Belarus and other nations trying to cheat, it would make it significantly harder and now at least they have to have a trial where other native gymnasts can have a fighting chance as well as making it harder to just willy nilly give out citizenship and trying to cheat their way into a worlds or Olympics slot…

        Like

  7. Completely bs!!! Its a good thing there will b zero camera times for these girls !! I dont for a second believe that they are so completely ignorant of the ramifications on the belarus girls… another reason why nellie kim needs to go…

    Like

  8. I could ALMOST be ok with this if the Nation they are representing had no elites to take, or if they took both the US girls WITH the Belarusian girls as a team. Why are they only sending the 2 Americans? I don’t blame the girls for jumping at the chance to go to world’s, but that interview is just awful..

    Like

    • Yeah, the interview is painful. I think had they just announced with no interview, it would’ve been easier to accept. And yes, Belarus can send three gymnast so if they sent one American and two Belarusians, sure. Or two Americans and one Belarusian. But to send two Americans and no one else when you have three spots? So insane.

      Liked by 1 person

      • When I first heard this story, I assumed Belarus didn’t have enough gymnasts to fill a team, so I was fine with this decision, assuming it was similar to Azerbaijan. Knowing now that’s NOT the case, and they’re not even bothering to send a third gymnast when they have 3 available spots, boggles my mind and makes me so angry. I feel so incredibly sad for these Belorussian gymnasts that are being pushed aside for no good reason. None of this makes any sense to me, and I hope the Belorussian gymnastics federation doesn’t end making things worse for their program with this decision. UGH.

        Also, is anyone else shocked that Nelli Kim is willing to help out Americans? I guess she thinks it’s benefiting her home country, but I assumed she would look to any other country before America in this situation.

        Like

      • Yes, I meant “about the situation”. As a judge, and WAG Technical Director of my country, I am proud of the gymnasts that will represent us at Worlds this year. We were approached by a couple foreign gymnasts but I respectfully declined their requests. We DO have a developing program in my country, and accepting that request meant that the gymnasts that were working hard IN my country would not have something to work for as a goal (Going to Worlds this year).

        Liked by 1 person

  9. This is so sad, and quite a well-put opinion piece. If is true that the coaches approached Nellie Kim, then I truly have lost respect for Arthur Akopyan. Shame on everyone who organized this. It’s such a shame that two of their gymnasts have rejected their international credentials.
    I do agree with you, though, that I will not be in vocal disagreement if a Belarusian gymnast gets to go to the Olympics through this. Either way, still, why not send at least one Belarusian gymnast as well as an American?

    Like

    • We still need the justification of why only 2 americans instead of 2 and 1 Belarus. I still don’t like it at all the arrangement at all.. Its sad how this all played out and those that get hurted along the way. What’s to assure that Belarus will definitely send one of their gymnasts and not repeat this again in rio (is it bc there’s no more reward of any sort then?).

      I am slightly less upset if that’s the ultimate plan, but still pissed.

      Like

      • Of course we don’t know that Belarus will send one of their gymnasts to Rio should they get a spot. If they get a spot and it goes to Alaina or Kylie, I will be roaring with anger. But if it does go to a Belarusian, I will support the fact that there is a (genuine) Belarusian gymnast competing in the Games.

        Like

  10. What was Nellie Kim thinking? I often wonder what she’s thinking, but this situation is on top of the list. And it’s interesting that Artur and Galina never thought that McKayla Maroney should become Belarussian. She would have helped that team, not these two girls.

    The entire situation is completely insane, and insulting. I blame the adults (especially Nellie Kim), not the teenagers. The gymnasts want to compete at Worlds. Who can blame them?

    Like

  11. I agree with just about everything but I don’t know if we can really blame the girls entirely. From the interview it seems as if their coach thought of the idea and may have pressured them into it. Yes they’re almost adults but they’re still teenage girls who probably didn’t think about the fact that they’re taking some more deserving girl’s dreams and more so thought they were going to achieve their dream. Selfish, yes but they’re also young. I say blame the coaches and Kim. They should know better

    Like

    • Well that’s why I wrote a paragraph about why I don’t blame the girls at all. It’s fully the adults involved making decisions that hurt Belarus to benefit these girls. The only mistake the girls made was doing that interview. They just sound so ignorant…someone should have actually explained Belarus’ program to them before they spoke.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Lauren- thank you . I agree with all you have said up till 1/2 way through .then I Have this question.

    So Byelorusse does not have dual citizenship so these 2 girls are giving up American citizenship for anation that like Ukraine has not bothered to develope anything itself . Everything it does / earns is because Russia is a neighbour ( transit fees) , subsidises its gas , gives preferential trade deals & loans them money . Finally Russia declined a request for $3 billion & sent Byelorusse off to the IMF .

    If the WAG program ( like Ukraine’s ) is a pale shadow of its past glories it is because they were all Soviet trained until they ran out of ppl who knew anythingabout anything.

    All in all a tragic state of affairs . These girls are just ignorant . Sport just is not worth this .

    Like

    • @Dasha’s Dacha the girls involved will not be giving up their American citizenship; they are simply gaining dual citizenship. I don’t agree with this wholeheartedly, but I am not as Flamingly Outraged with it as most of the gymternet seems to be either, and your response touches on a reason why, I think. Belarus was not a growing program; they, like Ukraine WAG, were strong shortly after the USSR breakup but have continually declined as they’ve lost funding and coaches have emigrated. With that said, this is still a dick move, but like, I can see the motivation of the federation. Girls who can already get into the 50s AA and will likely improve more quickly than those training in Belarus, presumably training in better conditions that the BGF do not have to fund, are a much safer bet for the Olympic spot that will get them funding than anything homegrown is. It’s not very kind of them to do this to their native gymnasts, but struggling gymnastics programs, as have so often been noted, are a cycle/downwards spiral and it has to be broken somehow.

      I do disagree with the speed of the turn-over for these girls’ citizenship and affiliation change, but if the FIG are going to write a rule that prevents this without disadvantaging gymnasts making “legitimate” affiliation changes, they will have to think very carefully. My suggestion would be requiring athletes to compete in at least one minor meet for their new affiliation, such as a national championships, other domestic elite meet, or international friendly, before they are allowed to represent the country at a multi-sport event (Olympics, continental games, Universiade, etc.); world or continental championship; Olympic Test Event; or World Cup meet, rather than any sort of residency requirement (would disadvantage someone like Toni-Ann Williams or Talia Chiarelli) or duration of citizenship requirement (would disadvantage someone like Oksana Chusovitina or Anna Pavlova).

      Like

      • Byelorusse is not listed on the list of nations that offer dual citizenship . The only former Soviet republic that does is Latvia . Then there is the requirement specifically that native Byeloruusians must renounce that citizenship on attaining American naturalisation.

        So the laws are strong but the flesh is willing? I’m beginning to think the Olympics destroys more than it builds .( which is why it finished first time around ) .

        Like

      • Teachnically the US doesn’t grant dual citizenship either (you have to swear off any allegiance to other countries when you take the oath) but there are still people who get it. Loopholes can be manufactured when it’s convenient, yeah.

        I think the problem is less the Olympics as a concept and more how much of a money game sport has become around the whole world. It’s had effects on more than just gymnastics, too.

        Like

    • No, they will always have the option of switching their affiliation back as long as they retain US citizenship. If Belarus chooses not to release them, they may have to have a “dead year” after which the release will automatically be granted, but after that they will be able to compete in the US.

      Like

      • Kind of irrelevant. I don’t think they will ever make the U.S. national team, let alone be given an international assignment. They seem more NCAA bound.

        Like

  13. Amen, Sistah! I feel the exact same way. Actually, I am slightly harsher on Kwan and Dickson then you are, just because they do, as young adults, bear some responsibility in this in that it’s wrong for them to be so comfortably ignorant and simple-minded. That being said, this is Kim&Co. fault. Is there no sense of decency to be had? How unscrupulous can you be?! Smh.

    Like

  14. Ugh. Yes to everything you said, but like Juliet, I also put a but more responsibility on the girls themselves. I understand that they want to take a good opportunity. But, I am not impressed with the interview. It was white savior big time. But, sadly, I believe this is how most US born white folks think. So glad you are writing about this in this way though.

    Like

      • I don’t think they mean all white Americans do this. It’s called “white savior complex” but generally refers to people in the west who think they can save the poor underdeveloped parts of the world, not necessarily meaning literally “white people.” I think that’s the general idea that commenter was getting at.

        Like

  15. I don’t know the inner working of this story, but I wonder – where were the girls’ parents in this decision process? Aren’t they the ones who are responsible for morally guiding their teenagers’ choices?
    I agree with you, Lauren, that its crazy for them to “represent” a country whose soil they haven’t stepped foot on, whose gymnasts they haven’t met. There is very little diplomacy in the way this is going down.

    Heres what baffles me most:
    If the whole point on Belarus’ side is to bolster their program by a strong showing at Glasgow, why go through this whole shenanigan, which is insulting and unfair to their own gymnasts, only to be replaced with two Americans who can’t even break 52? It just seems like too much drama for so little actual benefit. Why not recruit the girls who can post a strong 57, who are possible medal contenders, who can actually do something to improve Belarus’ position leading into Rio? It makes no sense, all morals aside!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: on FIG change-of-nation requests | Excellent Liquid Chalk for Weight Lifting

      • Aliya’s back injury is starting to look less like a tragedy and more like a solid exit strategy! “Sorry Rods, I’m just no good to the Russian program anymore….” *hotfoots it for Azerbaijan*

        Liked by 1 person

      • However Azerbaijan did bring some good coaches over with the gymnasts who to work with Azeri hopefuls eg Kristina’s Pravdina’s father , but he died . All in all we should be encouraging WAG into muslim nations like Azerbaijan who are welcoming sort for females .

        Like

  17. Very well said. I’d just like to chime in that I don’t agree with Azerbaijan being used as a positive example. As someone from a small country without strong gymnastics traditions, whose federation spent the past decade building a now moderately successful program from the ground up, it’s rather frustrating to see these teams of “imported” gymnasts pop up over night. Rusbaijan qualifying a team to Glasgow would’ve felt sooo wrong. But hey, apparently all is fair in love and sport, money talks, etc. I do hope they make real long-term investments as well and actually start producing strong gymnasts of their own.

    Like

    • Yeah…I hope that their goal of using the Russians to help grow the program so Azeri girls can represent in future generations because it’s easier to bring gymnasts over than it is to take someone and turn her into an elite from scratch, so without the Russians they would have zero representation…but if they continue importing instead of growing internally, it’ll be just as bad.

      Like

  18. We do not know the details so it makes no sense to openly judge. My question is: would everybody be so angry if the girls weren’t north americans? Be better ppl.

    Like

    • I know more details than I was able to include here and the whole situation is very shady. But no, it’s not just because they’re Americans. That’s why I included examples of other Americans doing similar changes of nationality and why I’ve respected other moves in the past. This isn’t as simple as changing nationality to help out another country’s program. This is buying your way into a Worlds spot. Not the girls’ fault at all but gross behavior from all adults involved, and it’s only hurting the Belarusian gymnasts.

      Like

  19. This situation makes me beyond sad for the Belarussian gymnasts who have been deprived of their dream of competing at World Championships. With the FIG constantly decreasing the number of athletes from each country for Olympic teams all for the claim that the FIG wants more countries represented, how could anyone let this happen to these Belarussian gymnasts?

    Like

  20. The Belarus federation should have some sort of qualifing procedure that these two US athletes would have to show their worthiness as an asset to this team in an even playing field…I would feel differently. However, I can’t stop to think that this is a fantastic opportunity and experience for these athelets.

    Like

  21. First off – great article Lauren. It is so important not to sweep this under the rug and just accept it as a part of sport. The way these girls attained citizenship and their spots on this team is just plain cheating (my opinion) and a slap in the face to the gymnasts in the Belarus Program

    I feel this could set a very dangerous precedent (as others have mentioned). What’s to stop every other country in the world from recruiting American gymnasts to bolster their results? Where do loyalties lie? Is success more important than loyalty to your country and its citizens?

    I know this following statements/questions are probably over dramatic but I can’t help myself..

    What if a strong gymnastics country like Romania “recruits” a couple of the stronger American gymnasts (who haven’t had opportunity or have been overlooked by Marta and USAG) to help on the events where Romania is weaker in order to be more competitive?

    Could we potentially see 20 Americans competing at future World Championships and Olympics? For example: Team USA 1 representing The United States versus Team USA 2 representing Belarus versus Team USA 3 representing Malaysia and so on and so on…

    It will be interesting to see if FIG steps in, if not…….. Could this start a recruitment like NCAA except instead of scholarships, National Team spots are offered??

    Like

  22. Pingback: A Kafkaesque Gymnastics Dream | JAG GYM Blog

  23. Wow, what a comprehensive article! Words can’t even describe the injustice of it all. How embarrassing for the USA that two of their gymnasts are taking up spots available to the Belarusian gymnasts. What makes them think that they deserve to be at Worlds over the actual Belarusian gymnasts, or indeed over the numerous fellow Americans who rank much higher? The adults in their lives should be ashamed.

    Like

  24. Pingback: A Kafkaesque Gymnastics Dream - Democratsnewz

  25. Pingback: A Kafkaesque Gymnastics Dream | Ten Sports Club

  26. Pingback: A Kafkaesque Gymnastics Dream | Ten Sports Club

  27. This is something I have often wondered about. I’m American.. 100%. My husband is Dutch.. 100%. We chose to live in husband’s country of The Netherlands 14 yrs ago. We have 2 children ages 7 and 12 and they both have 2 nationalities. They have never lived in the USA but they are very much AMERICAN children as well as Dutch. I’m often frustrated by the lack of training for gymnastics here and have joked before about taking our daughter back home to get her trained up there and coming back. No doubt I’d get criticism for it. But yeah, if she were to show true talent and perform well I’d want her on the US team more than the Dutch one. I know it’s better and I’d want her to be the best. I can understand being snubbed though and wanting to still compete so taking the advantage of hopping to another country. I’m personally fine with it to a point. If they have roots in both countries I see no problems with it. My entire family is in Iowa and we see them as much as we can. My husband’s family is here in Holland. I call both places home. I would be proud to have a kid compete for either country if it came down to it. All hypotheticals because she’s 7 and since she has taken gym only in NL, she’s not great at it and I already have realized the gyms in OUR part of the country aren’t very serious. I’m sure this issue never comes up for us 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your insight! I think if there are ties to either country, it doesn’t matter who they compete for…there are several gymnasts either foreign-born or with a parent born in another country who could have their choice of countries and I don’t think it’s an issue at all. Eythora Thorsdottir in the Netherlands got to choose between the Netherlands and Iceland because she has ties to both and I don’t think anyone was mad or upset that she chose the Dutch program, just as if I don’t think anyone in Iceland would be upset if she chose to change nationalities. I think with this situation, the girls having zero ties to Belarus and basically buying their way in is what the real problem is…but for the most part I think moves between nations are generally supported if the tie is there.

      Like

      • Not related to this situation, but in the British press there has been a lot of talk about “plastic brits” over the years. I think the average person on the street is less understanding of the subtleties than experienced journalists and people who have direct or indirect personal experience of complicated citizenship situations. No one has a problem complaining about this situation, but I’ve heard plenty of people complaining about legitimate situations.

        Like

      • Check out Eythora’s episode of The Hard Way to Succes on YouTube. She explains that she is in contact with the Icelandic federation, but prefers to compete for the Netherlands because she considers it to be more of a challenge to make the team there.

        Like

  28. Pingback: 168: Shannon Miller, Belarusgate, NED vs GB | GymCastic

  29. Pingback: The Weekly Roundup | The Gymternet

  30. While I agree that these girls weren’t the decision makers of this, I also think they are 17 and 16 years old, which is more than old enough to think about the consequences of your actions. I’m not blaming the girls entirely for this, but in my opinion they are old enough to look across the ocean and see that there are other teenage girls just like them living in Belarus who are losing their chance for worlds because they agreed to this operation which really only propels their fame and success. Despite the fact that the adults in their life failed them and made childlike decisions, these girls are also responsible for agreeing to something which hurts their peers, and that’s what grieves me. I love gymnastics because of the sport of it, the competition and rules and fair play are what make sport and competition fun. If only they would see this.

    Like

  31. I can see the Belarusian federation deciding to send these 2 American gymnasts to Worlds who have a better chance of qualifying spots for Rio than the seniors in the country right now. Perhaps they’ll sub in the real Belarusians afterward.

    Like

  32. Pingback: Tumbling between two countries | illusion turns

  33. Pingback: The Four-Year Fan Guide: Gymternet Glossary | The Gymternet

  34. I totally understand why people are upset by this, and I am in no way surprised that Nellie was involved, but, (maybe I’m wrong or dont completely understand) shouldn’t Kim be hands off with any country’s program, especially her home. She should be completely impartial and not involved in these things. Moving on from that, I don’t have an issue with a gymnast (or any athlete), competing in out for another nation if it will give them more opportunities, as well as, help the program. Your analysis suggests it won’t. That’s unfortunate. It isn’t like this kind of thing has never happened before. There are a lot of examples. One in particular that I remember from the winter Olympics from ice dancing, there was her a male looking for a partner so they could fill their Olympic spot. An American family saw it online. Her sister was attending representing a different country already, so, they jumped on the opportunity. She was given citizenship like 2 months or something before the Olympics. My husband asked me the other day (not knowing about this) why the girls who are good, but buried by the us depth, didn’t try to compete for another country. Especially if they enjoy competing. The US, compared to so many other countries, doesnt send girls out much. I mean, girls like the two of them, would have almost no opportunity’s to compete at the level they’d like to. So, why not go somewhere they can? They can do friendlies, various cups, European games, European championships, etc. To be honest, even if Martha doesn’t want to send the a team, or even the b team, why not send c team members? They get to compete, get great experience, and have a much better cf chance of growing and trying to improve. But in their shoes, they aren’t up to the standard here, and want to compete. I mean, they went to Belarus. they’re not expecting to win major medals. This wasn’t the right way, but it’s done i wish them the best.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s