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8 Sochi Medal Winners Who Had To Change Citizenship To Compete

For love of country.

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These medal winners found success after switching countries they represented. The leaders of their old Olympic federations are no doubt biting their nails.

The Olympics is about the individual athletes, not nations who compete in the medal tables. But athletes who change their citizenship to compete are referred to as "passport Olympians" or "Olympic carpetbaggers," and it is a tradition that dates back at least as far back as the 1920s, when Britain fielded ice hockey teams made up largely of Canadians. Perhaps these terms are unfair, since these athletes do care for their newly found homes. Anyway, life is complicated.

1. Russia's Viktor Ahn: 3 gold, 1 bronze medals in short track

Ahn Hyun-Soo became a mega-star when he won three gold medals for his native South Korea in Turin but had a falling out with his skating union. Russia gave him another chance, and the athlete's pay back was overwhelming: he won Russia's first-ever medal in short track (a bronze), and later he and countryman Vladimir Grigorev celebrated a 1-2 finish, also Russia's first. On February 21, Viktor Ahn won two more gold medals, tying Apolo Onho's record 8 Olympic medals in short track.
cdn1.therepublic.com / Via Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Ahn Hyun-Soo became a mega-star when he won three gold medals for his native South Korea in Turin but had a falling out with his skating union. Russia gave him another chance, and the athlete's pay back was overwhelming: he won Russia's first-ever medal in short track (a bronze), and later he and countryman Vladimir Grigorev celebrated a 1-2 finish, also Russia's first. On February 21, Viktor Ahn won two more gold medals, tying Apolo Onho's record 8 Olympic medals in short track.

2. Belarus' Darya Domracheva: 3 gold medals in biathlon

Darya Domracheva's incredible three gold medals are enough to anoint her as Queen of Sochi. She scored major points for Belarus in the medal table but Darya also has plenty of fans in Russia, which she represented at youth level until 2004.
image.tsn.ua / Via ru.tsn.ua

Darya Domracheva's incredible three gold medals are enough to anoint her as Queen of Sochi. She scored major points for Belarus in the medal table but Darya also has plenty of fans in Russia, which she represented at youth level until 2004.

3. Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar: 2 gold medals in figure skating pairs

In 2010, the head of the Ukrainian trainers' council said there were no suitable partners for the rising star Tatiana Volosozhar, not interfering with her plans to team up with Maxim Trankov of Russia. The pair added two Olympic Gold medals, in pairs and team competition, to their phenomenal success in recent years that includes two Russian championships, three European crowns, and a World Championships victory.
nbcolympics.com

In 2010, the head of the Ukrainian trainers' council said there were no suitable partners for the rising star Tatiana Volosozhar, not interfering with her plans to team up with Maxim Trankov of Russia. The pair added two Olympic Gold medals, in pairs and team competition, to their phenomenal success in recent years that includes two Russian championships, three European crowns, and a World Championships victory.

4. Russia's Vic Wild: 2 gold medals in snowboarding

Born and raised in the U.S., Vic Wild is a part of Russia's phenomenal medal-winning couple with his wife Alena Zavarzina. They will be taking home Alena's bronze medal in parallel GS and Vic's gold medals in parallel slalom and giant parallel slalom.
l2.yimg.com / Via Vic and Alena (AP)

Born and raised in the U.S., Vic Wild is a part of Russia's phenomenal medal-winning couple with his wife Alena Zavarzina. They will be taking home Alena's bronze medal in parallel GS and Vic's gold medals in parallel slalom and giant parallel slalom.

5. Switzerland's Iouri Podladtchikov: gold in snowboard halfpipe

The man who flew off with Shaun White's crown in snowboard halfpipe was born in Moscow and even competed for Russia in Turin. But Iouri Podladtchikov's golden days belong to Switzerland, where the athlete grew up.
concordmonitor.com$daE2N3K4ZzOUsqbU5sYtzI0H7naSix3vSG1y_8YiDWCsjLu883Ygn4B49Lvm9bPe2QeMKQdVeZmXF$9l$4uCZ8QDXhaHEp3rvzXRJFdy0KqPHLoMevcTLo3h8xh70Y6N_U_Cr / Via I-Pod and the Flying Tomato are still friends. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

The man who flew off with Shaun White's crown in snowboard halfpipe was born in Moscow and even competed for Russia in Turin. But Iouri Podladtchikov's golden days belong to Switzerland, where the athlete grew up.

6. Slovakia's Anastasiya Kuzmina: gold in biathlon

For the second straight Winter Games, Russia's coaches are losing sleep over Anastasiya Kuzmina's performance. After failing to make Team Russia and switching to Slovakia, she won two medals in Vancouver and repeated her gold-medal biathlon sprint race in Sochi. Meanwhile the Russian team, which includes Anastasiya's brother Anton Shipulin, has been horrendous at the home games and a disappointment to millions of biathlon fans. But Slovakia couldn't be prouder of her performance, the country's sole medal in Sochi so far.
wpmedia-games.canada.com / Via KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

For the second straight Winter Games, Russia's coaches are losing sleep over Anastasiya Kuzmina's performance. After failing to make Team Russia and switching to Slovakia, she won two medals in Vancouver and repeated her gold-medal biathlon sprint race in Sochi. Meanwhile the Russian team, which includes Anastasiya's brother Anton Shipulin, has been horrendous at the home games and a disappointment to millions of biathlon fans. But Slovakia couldn't be prouder of her performance, the country's sole medal in Sochi so far.

7. Belarus' Alla Tsuper: gold in freestyle skiing aerials

Alla Tsuper was born in Ukraine when the Soviet Union was still around, and she represented Ukraine at her first Olympics in Nagano in 1998. These are her fifth Winter Games and first medal. Not bad, considering Tsuper slipped through to the final round of competition by a mere .03 points--only to impress everyone with a tsuperb performance when it counted.
gallery.pressdemocrat.com / Via AP Photo/ David J. Phillip

Alla Tsuper was born in Ukraine when the Soviet Union was still around, and she represented Ukraine at her first Olympics in Nagano in 1998. These are her fifth Winter Games and first medal. Not bad, considering Tsuper slipped through to the final round of competition by a mere .03 points--only to impress everyone with a tsuperb performance when it counted.

8. Germany's Aliona Savchenko: bronze in figure skating pairs

Aliona Savchenko is probably following the events in her native Ukraine with great concern, yet the Kiev-born athlete's two bronze medals (Vancouver & Sochi) add to Germany's medal count. Under Ukraine's flag, Savchenko became a world junior champion in 2000.
gotceleb.com / Via Aliona Savchenko: pretty in pink in the rink

Aliona Savchenko is probably following the events in her native Ukraine with great concern, yet the Kiev-born athlete's two bronze medals (Vancouver & Sochi) add to Germany's medal count. Under Ukraine's flag, Savchenko became a world junior champion in 2000.

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