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Santiago, Chile- Seen from the perspective of American athletes, an athlete of Puerto Rican descent who was born, raised and developed in the United States has the right to represent the country of which he is proud.
At the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games, multiple occasions have occurred and will occur in which American athletes face friends wearing Puerto Rican colors, as occurred in the platform diving event between Maycey Vieta (Puerto Rico) and Jordan Skilken (United States).
Vieta and Skilken are childhood friends from Ohio. The Puerto Rican came fifth in the platform final, one space better than Skilken in the standings.
But there are no “issues” – as the Americans would say – with that happening.
“One of my best friends. By the way, she is from the United States and she represents Puerto Rico because her family is from there. And I think that’s tremendous. You represent who you are proud to represent,” said Skilken when referring to Vieta just after the competition between the two last Saturday.
“I know that it is a very controversial topic and that everyone has an opinion about it,” continued the American athlete. “But what matters is what makes you and your family proud.”
The Puerto Rican delegation has many athletes like Vieta, who was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, and spent his school and university career in the United States.
Vieta is the daughter of a Puerto Rican. She debuted with Puerto Rico Olympic Committee at the Central American and Caribbean Games San Salvador 2023.
In the same pool is the example of Kristen Romano, who is the daughter of a Puerto Rican and a representative of Copur since the Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla 2018. She has won multiple medals for Puerto Rico, including three gold medals in San Salvador 2023.
Star pitcher Aleshia Ocasio, of the National Softball Team, is another example. Crystal Weekes is another in taekwondo, as well as Rob Napolitano in athletics, Ethan Ramos in wrestling, among many others who are here representing the country of her parents.
For her part, Vieta, who understands when spoken to in Spanish, is very clear about who she represents and is not confused between one flag and the other.
“I love representing Puerto Rico. I would not change it for anything. Puerto Rico has given me incredible opportunities. Is incredible. I love that she (Skilken) represents America and is here. But I also like mine too,” she said.
Vieta said, in fact, that it benefits her that athletes from the United States are competing in the events she participates in because it gives her a familiarity with the competitive scene and the event venue.
These athletes share accommodation, such as in the Pan American Village where they stay, in addition to the dressing room of the venue where they compete. Those places ultimately have an effect on the athlete. And if the effect is positive, the better.
“It sure helps me because I feel at home. Jordan and Nike (Agunbide, another American diver here) and I were competing with our own universities until recently in the NCAA, like today. So it feels similar and comfortable to have your friends by your side instead of someone you don’t necessarily know,” she said.