Sunday, August 24, 2008

Georgian-US Flag bearer & Medals Speak Volumes

Aarow victory 

American Archer Khatuna Lorig originally from the Republic of Georgia and born in its capital Tbilisi  has been chosen to carry the USA's Flag at the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics.  US captains from every sport met in the Athlete's Village on Friday to select the flag bearer and voted for Khatuna.  Choosing her to carry our nation's colors after she reached the quarterfinals in Beijing because hers was a great story doing so well in spite of the obvious distractions to her caused of the invasion of Georgia by Russia. Although the war waging in her home country weighed on her mind as she competed Aug. 12 and 14, she did exceptionally well before losing to world record holder Yun Ok-Hee of South Korea.  Archery team captain Victor Wunderle said he nominated Lorig to be U.S. flag bearer in recognition of the respect her fellow athletes held her in.

Lorig's selection which is being perceived by some as a show of support by U.S. athletes for besieged Georgians does complement the choice of opening ceremony flag bearer and Team Darfur member, Lopez Lomong who is a former Sudanese Lost Boy and naturalized American runner at the University of Northern Arizona. 
However Lorig, who now lives in West Hollywood and trains in Chula Vista, California has downplayed this aspect. From the Miami Herald: 
.....during a Saturday interview with McClatchy, saying her fellow U.S. athletes didn't pick her to score geopolitical points.
"It's more that they feel that I'm American, it doesn't matter where I was born," the 34-year-old West Hollywood, Calif., resident said. "I'm truly very proud to be an American and most definitely very proud to be on the U.S. team."

However the Russian Invasion of Georgia did weigh on her mind during these Olympic Games as her parents had to flee the Russian onslaught of Gori, the city where they lived because of the bombings pictured above. 

Loris said her parents fled their home in the Georgian city of Gori when Russian troops invaded earlier this month and are still staying with her brother in the capital of Tbilisi. While competing, Lorig had called to make sure her parents were alright and was reassured after talking to her mother.
Lorig later learned that her mother had spared her the worst details about the destruction in Gori so that she wouldn't be too upset to compete. The family's farm house was spared the destruction, but neighboring buildings weren't, Lorig said.The archer expressed strong support for beleaguered Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who she said had done much to improve the lives of ordinary Georgians.
"I feel sad and I feel very upset," Lorig said. "But I know Georgia has very good relations with other countries and the world is not blind and will not just stand by."

Lorig has competed in 3 previous Olympic Games.  When 4 months pregnant in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics she competed for the former Soviet Union republic winning a Bronze medal on the so called "Unified Team."  She also competed for the Republic of Georgia and carried its Flag in the 1996 Atlanta Games and then again for Georgia in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

A product of the Soviet Union's sports academies, she decided to move to and compete for the United States when she realized Georgia could not provide adequate training facilities. She left behind her parents, whom she hasn't seen in three years, and a brother. She immigrated to the United States in 1995 settling first in New Jersey but was forced to sit out the Athens Game after not making the 2004 Georgian team.  At the time she was a single mom going through a separation/divorce and was still waiting to received her U.S. citizenship which came after years in 2005. 
Even if Democrat Presidential Candidate Barack Obama doesn't think "America isn't what it could be"  it is obvious that new American Lorig would disagree for being an American is a blessing:
"Being named the U.S. flag bearer for the Closing Ceremony is almost like winning a gold medal, maybe even better," Lorig said. "I thought I could win a gold medal in competition, but I never thought I'd have this opportunity. I am truly, truly so proud to be an American citizen and part of the U.S. Olympic Team."
"I will do my best to represent archery and the U.S. Delegation both at the Closing Ceremony and afterwards to hold up the responsibilities deserving of this great honor," Lorig said. "I wouldn't want to compete for any other country. I send my best wishes to everyone on the U.S. Team."

"It's such a pleasure," Lorig said. "I am so proud to have USA on my back. I am one of the lucky ones."
U.S. athletes have remained verbally silent about politics during these Olympic Games while winning the most medals of any country during these Spectacular $40 billion plus Beijing games while their counterpart Chinese Sport Farm grown Athletes garnered the most Golds.  The US Olympic team let their actions in the choice of bearer for the Stars and Strips speak for them before and after they were done pouring their huge hearts out during competition.  Remembering that former Olympian Speed Skater, Joey Cheeks and founder Team Darfur had his Visa to China revoked before the games the U.S. team captains countered by picking runner Lopez Lomong prior to the opening ceremony as the team's flag bearer, an obvious dig at the Chinese government's support of Sudan.  The Sudanese arms its militias with Chinese built weapons that have killed hundreds of thousands of people in the country's Darfur region where China is drilling for Oil.   At the end of the Beijing Coming Out Games, the US Olympic Team made its last political statement to Russia and the World Community by choosing Georgian-American Khatuna Lorig as the U.S. flag bearer in Sunday's closing ceremony. As the saying goes "Actions do speak louder than Words!".....American Khatuna Lorig would agree:
"I feel sad and I feel very upset," Lorig said. "But I know Georgia has very good relations with other countries and the world is not blind and will not just stand by."
Flagbearer of the U.S. Khatuna Lorig takes part in the closing ceremony in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 24, 2008. From Reuters Pictures by REUTERS.


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