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August 07, 2008

Four Time Olympian; First Time American

There is a reason Khatuna Lorig is fluent in three languages.

In her four Olympics, she has represented three different countries. She had no choice but to be fluent in them all.

None of the three languages Lorig speaks makes her more proud than the English she uses now that she has been a U.S. citizen the last three years.

"This is very special for me," said Lorig, a bronze-medal archer for the Unified Team of the former Soviet Union at the 1992 Olympics and a two-time Olympian for Georgia in 1996 and 2000. "It was a great experience competing for the Soviet Union one time and two times for Georgia.

"But this is special because the U.S. Olympic Committee cares so much for us. They do everything possible to make you comfortable and make your training really great. All we have to do is think about archery and shoot. I'm hoping I can really do something special to make the United States very proud because I'm very, very proud to be part of the U.S. team."

Lorig's long road to U.S. citizenship began 11 years ago. "I just had to wait," said Lorig, 34.  "I would have liked to shoot for the U.S. in 2000 and 2004, but unfortunately, I didn't have the citizenship. You can't speed up the process.  I don't know why it took so long. You'll have to ask Immigration."

When Lorig's citizenship was finalized in 2005, one of her first calls was to the USOC.

"I said, 'I'm competing for you.' They were glad to take me," said Lorig, who lived and trained in New Jersey for 10 years after the Atlanta Olympics.

"I'm so proud. I'm walking around with USA on my back. I'm the lucky one."

Three-time Olympian Vic Wunderle first met Lorig when she moved to the New York/New Jersey area after the '96 Olympics.

"She's always wanted to live here and be part of this team," Wunderle said. "We've talked many times. I think sometimes she appreciates her American citizenship more than some of us who are born here, because sometimes we tend to take it for granted.

"Being new to the country, she appreciates many of the freedoms we have."

Lorig fit right in with her new American teammates, even though they were once her competitive foes.

"She's been a wonderful teammate," Wunderle said. "She's tried for a long time to get her citizenship, to be able to compete. She would have been a great addition to our 2000 and 2004 teams, and they probably would have had a lot better chance for a medal had they had her on the team.

"She was one of the best archers in the world during those Olympics. We're very happy to have her on the team. She's a great teammate to have."

Lorig first stumbled into archery at the age of 12 almost by default.

"I liked it because it's an individual sport, and you're in charge of your own arrow," said Lorig, who lives in West Hollywood, Calif., with her husband, Archil Onashvili, and their 15-year-old son, Levani. "If you shoot 10 points, it's 10 points."

Slowly, most of the other Georgian youngsters who were shooting archery with Lorig quit the sport. Ten years after she started shooting arrows, Lorig was a Soviet Olympian. Her mother and father and married brother still live in the Georgian country where she grew up before she left one day to pursue a sport that became her life.

"They're happy, because I'm happy, and I'm very happy in the United States," said Lorig, whose husband is a former shooter who hopes to make the next Olympics along with his wife.

"I'm the only person in my family who actually wanted to see outside the country. There's nothing to compare. The U.S. does everything for us. They even gave me a cell phone. Don't get me wrong--the people (in Georgia) are great people. I love my country, because that's where I was born and raised. But I'm going to continue shooting the bow as long as I can shoot arrows."

Tommy Hine is a freelance contributor for This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.

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