Events like the recently passed summer Olympics give people
around the world reason to be proud of their country. The
combination of raising the flag and playing the national anthem is
sure to make chests swell no matter what nationality. On rare
occasions, spectators get the opportunity to feel far superior when
their country takes more than one medal.

But Michigan rower Tara Medina has a far better chance than most
of seeing her nation dominate the podium.

Medina, a senior coxswain, has citizenship in not one, not two,
but three different countries. She was born in Alberta, Canada, but
neither of her parents are Canadian. Her father is Australian and
her mother is American, allowing her to gain citizenship through
birth abroad in both other countries.

She moved to Australia at age 3 and stayed throughout her
elementary years before moving to Vancouver Island, B.C., where she
would pick up the sport that would change her life.

Medina began coxing at age 11 and continued through high school.
By 11th grade she was skilled enough to try out for the Canadian
Junior National Team, but ended up being cut. It was at this point
that Medina first put her triple-citizenship into action for rowing
— she tried out and qualified for the United States Junior
National B Team. Soon she found herself competing in Mexico against
the host nation, and against her home nation, Canada.

“The U.S. won, beating the Canadians, so I was happy after
a long and emotional few months,” Medina said. “This
was my first encounter with being an ‘American.’

The coaches of the U.S. squad pushed Medina to apply to American
schools, and she sent out applications across the country. Her
first visit to Michigan was enough for her to commit and cancel all
her other applications, partially because Ann Arbor’s
laid-back reputation struck a chord with the relaxed Aussie and
Canadian lifestyles she had grown so accustomed to. But even moving
to the U.S. for the first time wasn’t enough to make Medina
forget how she got there.

“Canadian rowing is what made me love the sport,”
Medina said. “I grew up rowing on the ocean and it helped me
to become the person that I am, as well as provide me with an
outlet.”

Medina never had to feel like an outsider on the Michigan team,
which has always been “full of Canucks.” She was one of
13 Canadians her freshman year, and this year’s crew still
boasts eight women from north of the border.

“I guess you can say the rowing community in Canada is
quite small,” she said.

But Medina has made a big name for herself, coxing the first
varsity eight as a junior last year while receiving second-team
All-Big Ten honors. She hopes to build on this success in her last
year of school, before deciding which country she really wants to
make her home.

“I spent the most time in Canada, and definitely consider
myself a Canadian,” Medina said. “However, after living
in the United States, I definitely feel as if I will end up here.
Michigan, and the United States, is something that I worked to get
to and definitely identify with now.”

Still, Medina identifies with parts of all three countries. She
still strongly prefers Australian or Canadian candy and beer, and
American football has been tough to learn to love (her father
coaches the Canadian Under-21 rugby team).

So the next time Team USA laces up its skates and hits the ice
against its Canadian counterparts, or the U.S. pool rats dive in to
race those fish-like Australians, American sports fans should be
glad they know who to cheer for. Tara Medina is torn — but
remember, she gets to win a lot more, too.

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