Iason Abramashvili, Alex Beniaidze and Nino Tsiklauri (Alpine Skiing), and Elene Gedevanishvili (Figure Skating)
Georgia’s Olympic team suffered a serious blow in Vancouver with the death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training run on the first day of the Games. Four years later, Kumaritashvili’s teammates are back to honor his memory, including his hometown compatriot Iason Abramashvili, who will be competing in the alpine skiing competition along with Alex Beniaidze (not pictured) and Nino Tsiklauri.
Of all the former Soviet republics attending the Games, Georgia has suffered the most fraught history with Russia. The two countries went to war in 2008 over the contested territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia—which Russia now occupies militarily and which are only recognized by five countries worldwide, including Venezuela and the Pacific atoll nation of Tuvalu—and the breakaway republics continue to cause massive amounts of friction between Tbilisi and Moscow. Sochi is mere miles away from the Abkhazian border, and Georgia has protested Russia’s pushing of its Olympics security perimeter into Abkhazian territory as an “illegal expansion.”
Raven-haired beauty Elene Gedevanishvili is a three-time Olympian and two-time European bronze medalist in figure skating—and she might have been skating for Russia had the country not revoked her mother’s visa in 2006 on a technicality. Given 10 days to leave the country, the Tbilisi-born Gedevanishvili headed to Estonia to train. Eventually, she ended up in New Jersey, where her mentors have included former coach of Olympic gold medalist Oksana Baiul. A win for Gedevanishvili on the ice would certainly be a black eye for her former host country.