Five Olympic Carpetbaggers to Watch

We love our Olympic heroes—those whose hard work and talent have made them the best our country has to offer. But what about those who rely on property ownership, distant ancestry claims, and willing governments to sneak through on middling talent?

The 2014 Winter Olympics are in full swing, and with the games the kind of national pride that only rolls around every two years or so, barring a good war. Amid all weirdly intense flag-waving, a select few athletes have wormed their way in, neither lying low nor trumpeting their national loyalties.

It's not impossible for these folks to medal—on Monday, Viktor Ahn, a former South Korean speed-skating star who moved to Russia, which has a shallower field in the sport, won bronze in the men's 1500m event.

But mostly they're just there for the fun. These are the carpetbaggers—the Olympic athletes competing for a country that isn't the one they live in or were born in, but one that offers them the best chance at competing. Here are five other Olympic traitors to watch.

Update: This post partially relied on a Foreign Policy report from last week by Hanna Kozlowska and Catherine A. Traywick, which covered the same phenomenon and mentioned four of the five athletes discussed below. Kozlowska and Traywick should have been credited.

Hubertus Von Hohenlohe

Five Olympic Carpetbaggers to Watch

Country of Residence: Austria

Competing for: Mexico

Event: Alpine Skiing

Number of other Olympics attended: 5

Claim: Parents flew to Mexico for birth

Mexico's entire team for the Winter Olympics is a 55-year-old German prince with some interesting thoughts on athletic fashion. Dubbed "the most interesting Olympian in the world," Von Hohenlohe is descended from German royalty, and although German royalty doesn't mean much these days, his heritage still means he's allowed to go around calling himself Prince Hubertus. He primarily lives in Austria, but he's known for showing off his appreciation for Mexican traditional dress during competitions. When he competes February 14, you'll know him by his sweet mariachi-inspired getup. This year's oldest Olympian is actually only about one-eighth Mexican but was born there because, according to him, "We always wanted to have one member of the family [who was] Mexican." Was his birth the first move in a planned German takeover of the hearts of the Mexican people? Not by a long shot. The closest he's ever come to winning at the Olympics was his 26th-place slalom finish in 1984.

Chances of medaling: Slim to none. In the Vancouver Games the prince finished 78th in the giant slalom, and more recently he came in 56th place in the qualification round of the 2013 world championships.

Other hobbies: In his free time, Von Hohenlohe likes to be a photographer and a pop star.

Vanessa Mae

Five Olympic Carpetbaggers to Watch

Country of Residence: UK

Competing for: Thailand

Event: Alpine Skiing

Number of other Olympics attended: 0

Claim: Father is Thai

Mae, who is competing under her father's last name as Vanessa Vanakorn, isn't even trying to pretend she's from the country under whose flag she's competing. When she was attempting to qualify for the 2013 world championships, which determine Olympic eligibility, she told the Telegraph, "I am British, but realistically there is no way I could represent my own country, but because my natural father is Thai, they have accepted me." In her normal life, Mae, now 35, is a record-holding violinist who at 13 became the youngest person ever to record both both the Beethoven and the Tchaikovsky concertos. Her albums have done well on UK music charts, with her first record peaking at number 11. But being a world-famous classical musician can apparently get boring sometimes, and Mae took a year off of music to prepare for the Games. "People are surprised when they see me skiing," she told the Telegraph last month. "But it has been my dream to be a ski bum since I was 14. This is something I am determined to do." Well, the Olympics are certainly one way to chase your ski-bum dreams.

Chances of medaling: Mae barely qualified for Sochi during the last round of races. Right now she ranks 3,166th in the world in giant slalom, so victory on February 18 isn't likely.

Other hobbies: Collaborating with Prince and Janet Jackson.

Gary and Angelica Di Silvestri

Five Olympic Carpetbaggers to Watch

Country of Residence: US

Competing for: Dominica

Event: Cross-country skiing

Number of other Olympics attended: 0

Claim: Overseas philanthropy

Dominica is a warm island nation in the Caribbean. So of course the country's great Olympic hope is a married couple from Staten Island. The Di Silvestris have both been hobbyist cross-country skiers since the late 90s, but neither had even considered the Olympics until they got a phone call from Dominica two years ago. Yep, they're also Dominican citizens. They were both offered dual citizenship after extensive philanthropic work in the country, meaning that now both have Italian and Dominican citizenship, with a bonus U.S. citizenship for Gary thrown in for fun. Last year, he revealed to New Zealand's Southland Times that he and his wife took the challenge not only for fun, but also to inspire others. "We really want show and inspire younger athletes in the Caribbean nations and South America that might not have access to snow that there are chances to excel at snow sports." It's easy! Just don't actually live there.

Chances of medaling: Neither has done particularly well in other ski competitions in the last year, with Angelica's personal best being 30th place in her event and Gary placing 18th in his. But as long as they inspire rich kids from warm countries who can go practice in another hemisphere, the Di Silvestris have done their part.

Other hobbies: Running the National Ski Association of Dominica, which they also founded.

Winston Watts

Five Olympic Carpetbaggers to Watch

Country of Residence: US

Competing for: Jamaica

Event: Two-man bobsleigh

Number of other Olympics attended: 3

Claim: Was actually born and lived much of his life in Jamaica

Unlike everyone else on this list, Winston Watts really did live in his competition country for much of his life. The 46-year-old bobsled pilot has represented the good name of Jamaican winter sports in the three other Olympics, under the name Winston Watt because of a typo on his passport. But after failing to qualify for the 2006 Games, Watts moved to the U.S. to become a naturalized citizen and work the Wyoming oil fields. The move turned out to be a smart one when he decided to get back in the vicious bobsled game: Watts trains at the 2002 Olympic grounds in Park City, Utah. Despite the great training grounds, actually getting to Sochi was a real problem: not only did the team have to raise thousands of dollars for equipment, but once they finally did arrive they weren't able to race in the first practice session because the airline lost their luggage. They've since been reunited with their equipment and are on track to compete in the qualifying rounds, which start February 16.

Chances of medaling: Not great–the highest Watts has placed at the Olympics was 14th out of 29 in 1994. Still, we can always dream.

Other hobbies: Watching Cool Runnings. Repeatedly.

[Lead image by Jim Cooke, images via AP and Getty]