The last time Enkelejda Shehaj competed at the Olympic Games, she was representing Albania.
That was in 1996. Three years later, with the government of her home nation collapsing and fearing for her family’s safety, Shehaj flew to the United States with two suitcases: “One with my clothes,” she told NBC Sports. “And one luggage, it sits there in my closet with all my medals, magazines, articles that were written about me and all the diplomas and everything that had related to the sport. That’s it.”
Shehaj completed the complicated process to become a U.S. citizen in 2012 and this week she’s back at the Olympics, competing as a member of the U.S. team in Rio de Janerio.
Her story is one of the more dramatic ones, but Shehaj is far from being the only immigrant competing for the Stars and Stripes at this year’s Summer Olympics. According to research from Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst for the Cato Institute, there are 48 members of the Team USA who were born in other countries.
Edward King is another foreign-born Olympian, but this isn’t the first time he’s proudly represented his adopted homeland—though he was born in South Africa, he’s been an officer in the U.S. Navy since 2011. King finished 10th this week as a member of the men’s lightweight four rowing team.
Phillip Dutton made a bit of Olympic history this week. The Australian-born equestrian rider became the oldest American, at age 52, to win an Olympic medal when he claimed the bronze in individual eventing—a sport that combines three different horseback riding skills. Like Shehaj, Dutton had previously competed in the Olympics for his birth country before immigrating to the United States and becoming a U.S. citizen.
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