What if Apolo Anton Ohno Skated for Russia?

Speed skating start

Apolo Anton Ohno is one of the USA’s beloved speed skaters. He is an eight time medalist and in the last two weeks provided the play by play for NBC’s speed skating broadcast of the 2014 Winter Olympics. He’s definitely one of my favorite sports personalities.

How would we feel if Ohno abandoned his citizenship to represent another country in the Olympics? Because, that’s what Viktor Ahn (Ahn Hyun-Soo), former a gold medalist from South Korea, did for the 2014 winter games. Unhappy with how he was treated by his country’s skating federation, Ahn and his father shopped him around and Russia came up with the highest bid.

So now, Victor Ahn has won two gold medals and one bronze medal for Russia. I wonder what we can expect in the future and if other athletes will be selling their skills to the highest bidding country? There are Olympians representing different countries based on their parents’ nationalities, or through citizenship received by marriage to people from other countries, but this is the first time I’m aware of this kind of Olympic free agency.

Ahn is clearly the best in his sport regardless of what country he represents, but I wonder how fans from South Korea, who supported him over the years, feel about his defection? I know if it were Apolo Anton Ohno, I would be cheering for the other guy.

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South Korean Fury

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Mike

I actually woke up Phoenix seeing the title of your post and shouted out loud, “What?!?!” Then I read the post ha, ha. I did not know this about Ahn. I’ve not followed the Olympics like I used to except for the AP alerts I get on my phone. What an amazing question you’ve proposed, Jennifer 🙂

Bluestar68

I just don’t think that’s right…. I know that the lines between pro and amateur athletes have blurred a little in the Olympics but aren’t these games about bringing countries and their citizens together in peace? About representing one’s country and national pride? Athletes shopping around for a country/team to support them is what the pros do, not what an Olympic athlete does. I know we are becoming a global village but this isn’t right. Is this the beginning of the end for the Olympics?

jasteck

You crack me up, Mike! I don’t think Ahn should have been allowed to skate for Russia under the circumstances and Russia should be ashamed for buying their medals. Tell Phoenix I said hello!

jasteck

I agree with you. Where is Ahn’s loyalty to his country and his fellow citizens? I’m wondering if Russia will be his country of choice after the Olympics are over. Very sad…

Ed

I hadn’t heard anything about this until reading your post. While the athletes have the right to represent the country of their choice, it certainly seems wrong to me.

jasteck

Ed, I see the Olympics as celebrating athletes as they compete on behalf of their country. It certainly didn’t sound right to me.

jasteck

It ruins the point of the games, Dawn. I’m glad most of the events were wonderful, even when we didn’t win.

Katia

I agree with you. I never quite liked the shopping around for something that is supposed to be one of your definers, like nationality or political views, with the purpose of gaining something out of it. Your discussion made me think of the way some politicians in my home country would begin their political career after years of military service by shopping around for a political party. I found this a huge turn off. At the ripe age these individuals would be, their political views were clearly formed. It was such an overt choice of personal profit over conscience.

jasteck

I never thought about how the same things happen in other areas, Katia. You are so right about people looking for personal profit over doing what’s right. Thank goodness most people aren’t that way or we’d be in real trouble.

Joe

Jennifer,

Very good post, I can tell you I don’t like it one bit. I hadn’t heard about Ahn until your post, but it happened closer to home this year as well. Look up the story of Vic Wild from the US.

For me the Olympics are all about Country and being proud to represent your Country above all else. Ashley got a nice lesson in my opinion of this during the women’s US vs. Canada hockey game. She said go Canada, I had to explain she can like the team and the women playing for them, but they play one another you need to support your Country.

jasteck

As I was researching the story, I saw the information about Vic Wild. He is married to a Russian woman so I think he at least can refer to that relationship. He also won several medals. Last night I read that the USA also made Ahn an offer. I’m so glad he didn’t end up here. The Olympics are about supporting my country and sportsmanship, courage, dedication and pride. I definitely cheer for other countries after it’s clear we aren’t going to win. Until then, our athletes have my full support.

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