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Immigrants elevated U.S. team in Rio


Friday, August 26, 2016

Members of the United States Olympic team racked up medals at a near-record pace during the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. Well-known Olympians, like Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas and Serena Williams, wear the stars and stripes of their native nation.
 
But not all U.S. Olympians are native-born. In fact, many of the athletes who represented the United States in Rio are immigrants who are proud to compete on behalf of their adopted homeland.
 
Perhaps most notable among the immigrants competing on behalf of the U.S. are Kenyan members of the track and field team. Paul Chelimo, Leonard Korir, Hillary Bor and Shadrack Kipchirchir all came to the United States and serve in the U.S. Army while training in the World Class Athlete Program, a military initiative that provides support and training to soldier-athletes. Now citizens, these four elite athletes not only represent the U.S. at the Olympics but wherever the Army may send them. Bor’s brother, for example, is also a soldier and currently on active duty in Afghanistan.
 
Danell Layva, who competes in parallel and horizontal bars on the U.S. Men’s Gymnastics Team, came to the United States from Cuba when his parents defected in the early 1990s. A child of elite gymnasts, Leyva was a bronze medalist at the London games in 2012.
 
When Jay Shi was an 9-year-old boy in Beijing, he seriously injured his right eye in a scissors accident. At 11, he came with his family to the United States for medical treatment at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and, ultimately, immigrated. Though his vision was restored, he still has difficulty seeing some objects in three dimensions or in fine detail, nor can he judge distances very well. Ironically, he is an elite shooter with a pistol. He represented the U.S. in free pistol and air gun at the Rio games.
 
Along with the above examples, several other Olympians are immigrants or the children of immigrants. Their athletic example and willingness to represent the United States, at a time when so much anti-immigrant rhetoric appears in the American media, is inspirational. The United States is a country built on immigration, and the U.S. Olympic team is a shining example of our melting-pot nation.

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