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Immigrants Of The Day: Olga Korbut (Belarus), Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone), and Alfonso Marquez (Mexico)

by Kevin R. Johnson

Olga Korbut (Belarus)

Korbut_olga Olga Korbut was born on May 16th, 1955 in Grodno (Hrodna), Belarus. At the 1972 Olympics in Munich, her acrobatics and open display of emotion and raw enthusiasm captivated the Munich audiences, and there she became the first person ever to do a backward somersault on the balance beam. Korbut also was the first to do standing backward somersalt on bars, and a back somersalt to swingdown (Korbut Flip) on beam. During the Olympics, Korbut was one of the favorites for the all-around after her dynamic performance in the team competition. But memorably, she fell from bars and the title went to her teammate Ludmilla Tourischeva. Notwithstanding, she ended up winning three gold medals, for the balance beam, floor exercise and team, and one silver medal in the uneven bars. Korbut's Olympic achievement earned her the ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year. The Soviet coaches and officials had designated Olga as the woman who could beat Romanian prodigy Nadia Comaneci in the 1976 Olympic Games at Montreal. But Olga was injured and her performances were under-par. She was overshadowed not only by Comaneci but by her own teammate Nellie Kim. But she did collect a team gold medal and an individual silver medal for the balance beam. Korbut graduated from the Grodno Pedagogical Institute in 1977 and retired from Olympic competition.

Korbut married Leonid Bortkevich, who was a member of a popular Belarusan folk band.  In 1991, Korbut and her family immigrated to the United States. She now lives in Scottsdale (Arizona, USA).  For the official Olga Korbut website, click here.

May 31, 2007 | Permalink

Ishmael Beah (Sierra Leone)

200pxa_long_way_gone Ishmael Beah (b. 1980 in Sierra Leone) is the author of the memoir, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (2007).  In 1991, a civil war overtook Sierra Leone. His parents and two brothers were killed; at the age of 13, he was pressed into service as a child soldier. He fought for almost three years before being rescued by UNICEF. In 1998, Beah fled Sierra Leone to New York City and lived in a foster home.  In New York City, Beah attended the United Nations International School. After high school, he attended Oberlin College, graduating in 2004 with a degree in Politics.

Beah currently works for the Human Rights Watch Children’s Division Advisory Committee, lives in Brooklyn, and is considering attending graduate school. He will be the keynote speaker to the Global Young Leaders Conference 2007 in July.

June 25, 2007 | Permalink

Alfonso Marquez (Mexico)

Mini85a5052235856c5a2e772750c970e6f Alfonso Marquez (born April 12, 1972 in Zacatecas, Mexico) has been a Major League Baseball umpire since 1999. He has "umped" the 2006 World Series, the 2003 American League Championship Series, and four Division Series (2001, 2002, 2005, 2006), as well as the 2006 All-Star Game.

The first Mexican-born umpire in major league history, Marquez resides in Gilbert, Arizona. Marquez wears the uniform number 72. For Marquez's official MLB biography, see here

Marquez is from the small town (1,800 people) of La Encarnacion, Zacatecas, in central Mexico. Twenty-seven years ago, Marquez at age 7 left the farm fields of Zacatecas and followed his mother through a small hole in a chain-link fence separating Mexico from the United States.

Marquez is involved in many charity efforts. For a L.A. Times story about his work, click here.

June 26, 2007 | Permalink

These posts were orginally posted on the ImmigrationProf Blog here, here and here.

About The Author

Kevin R. Johnson is currently Dean, Professor of Law and Chicana/o Studies, and the Mabie-Apallas Public Interest Law Chair holder at the University of California at Davis. He is also one of the editors of ImmigrationProf Blog .

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.