Two teenaged girls from the United States have taken a controversial path to compete in the World Artistic Gymnastics championships by becoming citizens of Belarus and competing for the former Soviet republic despite never having visited the country.
Alaina Kwan and Kylie Dickson, both 16-year-olds from southern California, came in 73rd and 75th place, respectively, in the women’s qualification competition in Glasgow, Scotland, on October 24 as part of the Belarusian team.
Belarus granted both girls dual citizenship and nominated them to the world championships in the hope that their performances would help the country’s struggling program.
Their presence on the Belarusian team, after failing to qualify for the U.S. team, was technically legal but has prompted widespread debate and criticism.
Nellie Kim, vice president of the Belarus Gymnastics Federation, defended the decision by saying that athletes are frequently given dual citizenship in search of better opportunities.
It was not clear whether the girls will continue to compete for Belarus in the future.
Neither girl managed to qualify for next week's all-around finals.