Thinking about representing another country? That could be one of the most difficult decisions for any athlete. In some sport disciplines (like figure skating) it is quite normal and widely acceptable; but that doesn't mean it was easy for those athletes when time came to say goodbye to their birth country, if only on the ice.
You are a proud Canadian… or American… or Russian…
Imagine stepping on the ice for the first time and truly loving every moment, finding an ice-dance partner quite early, having a blast together on the ice the next ten years and then...
...your partner quits.
They no longer have the drive, their priorities changed, or maybe their family can no longer afford the cost of training.
You have a choice; you can leave it all behind, the years of waking up at 5 am, the countless hours of drills and circuits, the sweat and tears and thousand of dollars invested into your future...
...or somehow keep going.
But how, if there is only a handful of available skaters with skills and abilities matching your own?
What do you do?
Where do you go?
You enlist on every site offering partner search and hope that there is someone out there who loves skating as much as you do and who can skate as well as you do.
And after weeks of searching you find them… that one that is the perfect match; the only problem is that they live in Austria and would prefer to stay there.
Oh… and they would really like to represent their own country.
You still love skating more than anything else, don't you?
What do you do?
That's not an easy decision, is it?
Or just put yourself in the shoes (or shall we say skates) of someone who since he was five, spent every waking moment on the ice , who found his partner when he was 7 and trained with her for the next 9 years. One of the top Novice teams in the country and eager to do their best in Junior…
But their best was not good enough.
So many great teams there.
Where would they be?
Chances are that not at the top any more.
Their coaches called them into a meeting; they have seen an opportunity for the team and for themselves to continue training but under a different flag, as that would possibly open a doorway to get to the level where dreams were coming true.
One of the skaters in the team was born in Canada to parents born in one of the European countries (automatically granting him dual citizenship); to make things even more interesting, his grandfather was born in another European country, and his great-grandfather came from yet another. It would take a bit longer to get all the paperwork in place, but theoretically speaking, this team could represent three other countries if they wanted too, giving them a greater chance of competing at the International level.
The question was… would they want to compete under a different flag?
When faced with an offer like that, often accompanied by Coaches' promises of grandeur chances, a young skater needs to make a decision that will shape the rest of his or her skating carrier.
It's even more difficult for the other skater in the team, the one without any blood ties to the new country they are now suppose to represent. They are expected to try and learn the language, find out about customs and traditions, they need to wear the colors of their "new country" and compete against their former teammates.
Not an easy thing to do.
The beginnings of new allegiance are often very difficult, but skaters do it anyway… some, for the pure love of skating, others for the the only chance of making it to the top. Whatever their reasons behind the switch, their hearts are always in the right place, and they should be admired for such sacrifices.
Because those decisions always come with difficult sacrifices.
If you are thinking about representing another country, be sure to talk to others who have done it. Talk to your Coaches, ask questions, be sure to know your responsibilities and obligations. Contact your chosen country's skating association and see what the requirements are, before you make the decision.
Also, it is crucial to understand that there are very strict regulations regarding possible return to your country of origin. In most cases you will be required to sit on the sidelines and will not be able to compete for a full year if you want to compete again under your original flag.
If, while representing another country, you also need to relocate there, be sure to read the story about figure skaters relocating abroad.
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