The world will watch the colorful pageantry of the world's top athletes assembling in London on Friday for the 2012 Olympics. And while all members of Team U.S.A. are U.S. citizens, more than 40 of the nearly 600 athletes representing the United States are foreign-born.
Though the U.S. Olympic Committee doesn’t track whether these athletes have dual citizenship, birthplaces are documented. The participants this year come from countries ranging from Brazil and Russia to Kenya and Eritrea.
More than a dozen native Asians and Pacific Islanders represent the U.S. this summer, according to a story in New America Media, counting both those born in the U.S. to immigrant parents as well as immigrants who are now U.S. citizens.
One athlete, volleyball star Foluke Akinradewo, who was born in Canada to Nigerian parents, is a citizen of three countries.
For some, obtaining their citizenship has been one of the most challenging parts of participating in the Olympics. Russian-born Mariya Koroleva qualified for the national synchronized swimming team after she got her U.S. citizenship. She has said that the hardest part of participating in the Olympics was awaiting confirmation of citizenship.
Runner Kerron Clement, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, said he recalled dreaming of running since he was a child and living in the Caribbean.
“I didn’t have the resources nor was able to take advantage of my true athletic ability at a very young age,” he said, according to NBCOlympics.com. “I simply just chased my older brother, Charles Clement, and that developed my speed and endurance.”
Also representing the U.S. are a runner from Somalia and tennis player from South Africa.
Distance runner Abdi Abdirahman, who was born in Somalia, will make his fourth Olympic appearance in London. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1990 after escaping civil war. Since his father worked for a U.S. oil company and supported the 1992 intervention of U.S. military troops in Somalia, Abdirahman and his family had to flee. He became a permanent in 1999, and took the citizenship oath in 2000.
Abdirahman started running in 1996 while a student at Pima Community College in Tucson, Ariz. “I just wanted to do something,” he said. After running in his first 5,000-meter race, he decided to continue with the sport, according to his biography.
Born in Durban, South Africa, Liezel Huber came to the U.S. in 1992 to enroll in a tennis academy in South Carolina. She met the man who would become her husband, tennis pro Tony Huber. The couple moved to his hometown in Houston and married in 2000. Seven years later, Huber became a naturalized U.S. citizen.