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Examples of judoka with nation switch for Olympic Games

26 Dec 2014 13:45

   Rafal Burza
20140929_2014_Ilias_Iliadis Chelyabinsk_2014 World Chelyabinsk

Switching nations seems to be a trend, as judo is overwhelmed with judoka who switch nation, either to get a chance, either to get better financial circumstances. Although switches all from all times, but this Olympic cycle it's a method.

It was in 1996 when Pekli Maria won her last Hungarian national title as a year later she seen herself on the top of the podium once more but for a different country, Australia. Moreover, three years down the line and Pekli was announced as Olympic Bronze medallist front of her new home-crowd at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

From the famous judo family Van der Geest, Elco began his competitive carrier under the Dutch flag however retired at the neighbourhood after in Belgium just one day in advance of the World Championships in Holland he could compete for Belgium where Henk Grol shone with silver for his motherland. Going further back in time, surely the name Sergey Klichin would ring a bell either in memory of the Russian team or the Austrian team, as he was also one of the many judokas who swapped representative country throughout their judo carrier.

What is the different of Sergey Klichin and Linda Bolder for example? Sergey's switch was a unique experience for the society whilst Bolder's decision is just 'one of them'. Statistic shows that during the London 2012 Olympic Games more than 50 athletes who were representing Azerbaijan in London, almost half were naturalised citizens.

In the Balkan switches seemed more natural with the Majdov brothers, born in Bosnia Herzegovina and now successful for Serbia. Turkeyadopted a few Tsjetsjen judoka like Selim Tataroglu and 2000 Olympic Champion Huseyin Ozkan, born Khasei Bisultanov.

Changing passports to compete for another country recently became a common practice among judo athletes to be able to fight for their dreams. On the way to the next Olympic Games the fast growing incidence of nationality switches are reached a high number. The UAE team strives success after adopting more or less the Moldovan team with Vadim Bocan, Valeriu Chisca, Valeriu Duminica, Mihail Marchitan and not the least Ivan Remarenco, Victor Scvortov and Sergiu Toma

Judo is number one sport in Georgia therefore such a line up we witness from cadet to senior doesn't surprise the audience. It is certainly a hard work to make it to the Georgian national team and for one reason or the other some of the Georgian judo players decided to step away and seek for opportunities. A full team of Georgian players now competing under the Spanish flag whilst another three judokas headed towards Turkey to continue their carrier.  Judo hero, Ilias Iliadis also began his journey in Georgia however his incredible success respected by the Greeks, same for Tariel Zintiridis and Roman Moustopoulos to name a few.

Africa has strengthen their wills to gain more representative athletes at the biggest show on Earth. Ex-french national team members, Assmaa Niang and Rizlen Zouak, both decided to switch to their parents' origin, Morocco. Brazilian born, Taciana Lima also decided to pursue her dreams for another country in Africa called, Guinea-Bissau. Elias Nacif changed to Lebanon from Brazil. Another exotic is Karen Nun-Ira from Ghana whos now fighting her international events for Japan.

The female Israelian team had a fast grow in numbers this year with an additional three players  like successful judoka Amelie Rosseneu having the most recent announcement of Linda Bolder joining the team. Linda Bolder was competing under the Dutch flag so Esther Stam did in the U70kg category, however Esther also decided to handle her future success for the Georgian team. The Brits will also shine on the way to Rio as Alice Schlesinger announced her switch from Israel to Great Britain, although that was a more natural switch due to a double passport. Although politically a very interesting one.

Some changes nationalities whilst others changing names too. Ketty Mathe was representing France for a good few years before, and only recently agreed to continue her carrier as part of the Turkish team. Her first debut was at the Golden League last weekend where she was on show representing Turkey under the name of Kayra Özdemir.

Switching nationalities became like a trend in the judo society, however it is all for a good reason... to accomplish they dream of every athletes in the world to win an Olympic Gold. Arsen Galstyan knows all about it, although Armenians switch nations, outside the world of judo for ages. Now he is one of those examples. Who will follow with an Olympic title? 

Related judoka and events

Related Judo Photos

  • Linda Bolder (ISR) - Grand Prix Samsun (2015, TUR) - © Emir Incegul, Turkish Judo Federation
  • Alice Schlesinger (GBR) - Grand Prix Düsseldorf (2015, GER) - © Klaus Müller, Watch:
  • Esther Stam (GEO) - European Club Championships women Hoofddorp (2014, NED) - © Menno Lesterhuis

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