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You’ve won the medal, now visit the country


Boukpeti with medalTogo won its first ever Olympic medal on Tuesday, when Benjamin Boukpeti picked up a surprise bronze in the men’s slalom kayak event. Now he says he’s going to visit Togo.

Excuse me?

Athletes competing for countries other than the ones they were born in is nothing new. Middle-distance runner Lopez Lomong, who left his village in southern Sudan in 1991 aged six, carried the stars and stripes into the Bird’s Nest stadium at the head of the U.S. team.

Other athletes have switched countries for different reasons, often financial (see here for a Reuters Factbox). Kenyan-born double world steeplechase champion Saif Saaeed Shaheen, for example, emigrated to Qatar for a package including a monthly stipend of $1,000 for life.

But Boukpeti, so far at least, shows no sign of actually wishing to live in the country he competes for. Born in France to a French mother and Togolese father, he has only visited the African country once, as a child, to visit his grandmother. He only decided to compete for Togo when it became clear he was too old to make it into the far more competitive French team.