Why one athlete ditched the U.S. Olympic team to make history for another country.

One of Jordin Andrade's earliest memories was watching his uncle Henry run in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Henry also played in the NFL briefly, but for 4-year-old Jordin, the Olympics was much more exciting. Because even though he was born in the U.S., Uncle Henry was one of four athletes on the first ever Olympic team from Cape Verde, a small island nation 300 miles off the west coast of Africa with a population of about 500,000 people. (It's also known as the Republic of Cabo Verde.)

The Andrade family — including Jordin's father, Joe — immigrated to the United States from Cape Verde in 1960, just two years before Uncle Henry was born. "This is an opportunity to represent me, my family, my people and my country," Henry told the L.A. Times that year. "Cape Verde is so small and so poor. The place needs a lot of giving."


"That was a big inspiration to me as a kid," Jordin said in an interview with Idaho's KTVB7. "'Wow, my bloodline has some athletics.'"

Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Allsport/Getty Images.

It took Jordin Andrade until his junior year of high school to follow in his uncle's footsteps, but he did.

During high school, he became passionate about track and field and enlisted his Uncle Henry as a training coach. After graduation, Andrade ran for a junior college in his native California before being recruited by Boise State, where he went on to top national rankings. He even set a school-wide record in the 400-meter hurdles during his senior year and ran a 49.24 at his last NCAA Championships that same year — well below the Olympic qualifying time of 49.4.

Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

Qualifying for the Olympics was one thing. But Andrade still had another hurdle to face: Which country should he run for?

"It was between what everybody wanted me to do and what I wanted to do," he told South Coast Today. "Everyone I associate myself with is from the U.S. and they wanted me to represent."

At the time, Andrade had never even visited his ancestral home in Cape Verde. But his mind was made up after visiting New Bedford, Massachusetts — a small whaling town with a large Cape Verdean population. The trip gave him an opportunity to meet and connect with great-aunts and uncles and cousins he'd never met. Even the Cape Verdean Prime Minister José Maria Neves greeted him on one of his East Coast trips.

"When I first came out there, I wasn’t expecting much," Andrade told South Coast Today. "I ended up getting a big standing ovation and I met a lot of people with a lot of connections."

"I chose Cape Verde because that’s my family."

Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.

Andrade set off for Rio in 2016 as a representative of Cape Verde, and in his very first race he ... was disqualified before he finished.

It didn't matter that he finished the race with a qualifying time of 49.35 seconds — the judges claimed that he intentionally knocked over a hurdle in the last 50 meters, which was an automatic disqualification.

As you can imagine, Andrade was upset. And so was the entire country he was representing. "My phone hasn't stopped ringing, everyone wanted an explanation that I couldn't explain," he told KTVB7. "I had to sit in my room watching the clock, and prep my body as if I was running the next day just in case."

Cape Verde officials immediately filed an appeal, and what followed was eight tense hours of waiting and deliberation.

Eventually, the judges agreed to overturn their decision and reinstated Andrade as the sixth-place finisher in the race, making him the first Cape Verdean athlete ever to advance to the Olympic semifinals.

That might seem like a small feat compared to a gold medal. But that monumental moment was enough to make Cape Verdeans across the globe burst with pride:

While Andrade may not have advanced past the semifinals, he still achieved an incredible feat — for himself, and for his entire heritage.

Sure, Andrade could have run for the United States. But instead, he became a champion who brought hope to an entire culture — one that too often goes ignored.

"I'm really happy to represent a small country," he said. "I want to give them a voice and make sure that whole world can hear them. I finally get the opportunity to."

Congrats to Jordin Andrade and the entire Cape Verdean diaspora!

Most Shared

Mom and blogger Mary Katherine Backstrom regularly shares snippets of life with her two children on her Facebook page. One particularly touching interaction with her daughter is melting hearts and blowing minds due to the three-year-old's wise words about forgiveness.

Even adults struggle with the concept of forgiveness. Entire books have been written about how and why to forgive those who have wronged us, but many still have a hard time getting it. Who would guess that a preschooler could encapsulate what forgiveness means in a handful of innocent words?

Keep Reading Show less
Family

California has a housing crisis. Rent is so astronomical, one San Francisco company is offering bunk bedsfor $1,200 a month; Google even pledged$1 billion to help tackle the issue in the Bay Area. But the person who might fix it for good? Kanye West.

The music mogul first announced his plan to build low-income housing on Twitter late last year.

"We're starting a Yeezy architecture arm called Yeezy home. We're looking for architects and industrial designers who want to make the world better," West tweeted.

Keep Reading Show less
Cities

The U.S. women's soccer team won the Women's World Cup, but the victory is marred by the fact that the team is currently fighting for equal pay. In soccer, the game is won by scoring points, but the fight for equal pay isn't as clearly winnable and the playing field isn't as even.

We live in a world where winning the World Cup is easier than winning equal pay, but co-captain Megan Rapinoe says there's one easy way fans can support the team: Go see games.

Some people argue the men's team deserves to get paid more because they are more successful and earn more money for the United States Soccer Federation. Pay depends on merchandise and ticket sales, and in general, men's sporting events tend to draw a bigger crowd than women's sporting events. It's not about sex, many argue; it's about the fact that people just prefer to see men play.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

You think you know someone pretty well when you spend years with them, but, as we've seen time and again, that's not always the case. And though many relationships don't get to a point where the producers of "Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry?" start calling every day just to chat, the reality is that sometimes partners will reveal shocking things even after you thought you'd been all shocked out.

That's the case for one woman whose Reddit thread has recently gone viral. The 25-year-old, who's been with her boyfriend for five years, took to a forum for relationship advice to ask if it was normal that her seemingly cool and loving boyfriend recently revealed women shouldn't have a fundamental right. (And no, it's not abortion — although there are a lot of "otherwise best ever boyfriends" out there who want to deny women the rights to bodily autonomy, too.)

Keep Reading Show less
Recommended