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Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, its bobsled time!
April 17, 2014 4:20 PM   Subscribe

Asides from the Jamaican bobsled team, which other international competitors or talents are involved in pursuits that seem like a highly unlikely match given their nationality or location?

Sports would probably be an easy match (say, a Malaysian ice-skating champion), but there might be other avenues too, such as arts and culture (e.g. a Korean world-class flamenco dancer).
posted by divabat to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
An American, Chad Rowan, won eleven division titles in sumo wrestling under the name Akebono Tarō.
posted by lharmon at 4:33 PM on April 17 [6 favorites]


I don't know if this is quite what you're looking for, but your post brought to mind this incident surrounding a white, female sushi chef in Seattle.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:34 PM on April 17


Well, at the recent Sochi Olympics, the entire Mexican national Winter Olympics team consisted of a single ski jumper, a German prince (really!), who is a multi-millionaire who speaks something like six languages and owns a bunch of car dealerships.
posted by easily confused at 4:36 PM on April 17 [7 favorites]


There's a children's book by Allen Say called El Chino (I'm on my phone, so it's hard to link) about a Chinese-American matador in Spain. It's based on the story of Billy Wong, who was raised in Arizona and became a bullfighter in the 1960s after an engineering career. (Apparently there's a Kickstarter going for a movie about him.)
posted by Madamina at 4:41 PM on April 17


Brazil's Joselane Santos competed in the women's freestyle aerials at Sochi.
posted by Georgina at 4:58 PM on April 17


African-American Jerome Charles White, Jr. is better known in Japan as Jero, the first (possibly only?) black enka singer. Admittedly, he's part Japanese, but given that enka is the stuff you play when you're trying to sound as "Japanese" as possible, he's the equivalent of a Japanese honky-tonk star.
posted by Diagonalize at 5:52 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Venus and Serena Williams, Tiger Woods...
posted by spunweb at 6:02 PM on April 17


spunweb: what makes your two suggestions unlikely? Tennis and golf never struck me as being particularly location or nationality-specific, and they're all American anyway, with ample access to tennis courts or golf courses. Had they been in an area where tennis courts or golf courses are nonexistent, then that fits better.
posted by divabat at 6:10 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Arnel Pineda is the Philippine born and raised lead singer for the current incarnation of the multi-platinum band Journey. His path from an impoverished childhood in the Philippines (outlined briefly in the wiki article I linked to) to his current position as frontman for Journey is incredibly improbable. I don't know if this is the fish-out-of-water scenario you're looking for, but it's a hell of a story by anyone's standards.
posted by mosk at 6:16 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


In the states, golf, tennis and swimming are "country club" sports and thus very, very white. Being a black participant can be rare. (Ask me about the other-black-person-at-the-swim-meet nod.)
posted by dame at 6:23 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Notah Begay is the only full-blooded Native American to have been on the PGA tour, but his personal background doesn't necessarily mean that that's wildly improbably; he graduated from a private high school in Albuquerque and went on to graduate from Stanford with a degree in economics before pursuing professional golf. But it's pretty far from common.
posted by mosk at 6:30 PM on April 17


Dame has it. All three changed the face of their sports and still face overt and covert racism even tho they're the best in their fields of competition.
posted by spunweb at 7:08 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Jennifer Grout?
posted by fussbudget at 7:27 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


A lot of the quirky matchups in Sochi were due to athletes who have dual citizenship. The Christian Science Monitor wrote an article about this phenomenon and this article on "place branding" talks a bit more about this phenomenon in sports and has some interesting discussion about how South Korea is becoming dominant in women's professional golf.
posted by jessamyn at 7:48 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn: raised in Britain, lives in Switzerland, competing for Thailand, normally a professional violinist--turned skier at the Olympics. Oh yeah, and she's 35 and started training six months before. Calls herself a "mad old woman." My favorite for this category along with the Mexican prince guy already mentioned.

"Last month her trainer – and she will not name him for fear of causing him embarrassment – quit as soon as she made the qualifying criteria, much reduced for athletes from countries without any ski tradition."

posted by jenfullmoon at 10:32 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Hamadou Djibo Issaka, a Nigerian sculler who competed in the 2012 Olympics as a wildcard, having taken up the sport only 3 months earlier.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 6:39 AM on April 18


Williams and Woods being star athletes in tennis and golf are great examples because there are many examples in living history of country clubs in the United States that explicitly forbade people of color from joining up. If tennis and golf aren't quintessential country club sports, I don't know what are.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:07 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Looking at the question, the asker referred to "nationality or location". To the best of my knowledge, Woods, Williams, and Williams are all US citizens from Southern California.
posted by ftm at 7:36 AM on April 18


[folks maybe leave the tennis/Woods/Williams thing alone now. OP can take what they think is useful and leave the rest.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:45 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


British ski-jump "champion" Eddie the Eagle.
posted by xbonesgt at 8:02 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


World-Champion level Filipino ice sculptors are an interesting phenomenon considering the lack of freezing temperatures on record in that part of the world.
A good example of globalization, too.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:58 AM on April 18


Didn't Iran or Iraq try to field a women's soccer team? I seem to recall issues with running while still wearing traditional women's attire. I do not intend this as a joke or as condescending. And I seem to recall something about a female swimmer too.
posted by Billiken at 10:28 AM on April 18


Eric "The Eel" Moussambani represented Equatorial Guinea in the 100m freestyle at the 2000 summer Olympics. It transpired that he had never seen a 50m swimming pool before arriving at the venue (he did his training in a lake) and he had difficulty swimming the whole distance. However, he won the heat after his competitors were disqualified because of false starts.
posted by Cheese Monster at 5:36 AM on April 19


Chinese curling. I've heard it said that there are only eight people in China who are into curling and all of them are on the Olympic team. It's an exaggeration that's not far from the truth. Intensive full time training and imported coaching make up for the near-total lack of an amateur talent pool, enough so that the Chinese rinks are often medal contenders.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:44 AM on April 21


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