Giovanni Lanaro was born in Los Angeles, grew up in La Puente, attended Cal State Fullerton, and coaches and trains at Mt. San Antonio College. Yet, when the torch is lighted during opening ceremonies this summer at the Beijing Olympics, the world's sixth-ranked pole vaulter will be with Mexico, not the United States.[They're American, except in the Olympics By Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2008]One case is Robison Pratt, who was "born in Saudi Arabia to a family with ties to Mexico dating to before the Mexican Revolution." That is to say, polygamous Mormons who settled in Mexico to avoid American law. The LA Times writes:
Although Pratt's first language is English, he has a degree from Brigham Young University, he lives in Chino Hills and distant cousin Mitt Romney campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination, Pratt wore a Mexican uniform at the 2000 Sydney Games.Robison Pratt's father, Elbert Pratt, is a coach in Monterrey, at Monterrey Tech.
"I could have gone either direction," said Pratt, who will miss the Beijing Games because of a knee injury. "I'm comfortable with both cultures. I'm comfortable with both languages. I'm comfortable with a Mexican uniform on."
The real Mexican athletes, livingÂ and training in the relatively poor conditions in Mexico, resent the foreign athletes:
Lanaro also got a cold shoulder when Pratt invited him to compete for Mexico. But since shattering the national record and representing Mexico in four world championships, two Pan-Am Games and the Athens Olympics, that resistance has faded.Well, since Lanaro was born in Los Angeles, he's an American citizen, and he's training at an American university, so it's not surprising that people resent him competing for Mexico.
"They all know we live [in the United States] and we have better resources than what they do," Lanaro said. "But the bottom line is, I compete for that country. Whether I'm here, there, it doesn't matter. I represent the country."
Lanaro says most of the criticism he gets now comes from people in the U.S.
"It's all stupid. It's ridiculous," said Lanaro, who contacted the Mexican team with help from his girlfriend, a high jumper from Culiacan. "I'm not sitting here in the United States of America waving around a Mexican flag. If I am proud competing for my country, people need to respect that."