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Every Athlete Who Won Gold for Bahrain at the 2018 Asian Games Was African-Born

The wins have reignited a conversation around the poaching of African-born athletes in Asian countries.

The Asian Games took place last week in Indonesia and the small island country of Bahrain took home a whopping 10 gold medals at the 2018 games—all of which were won by African expats.

According to the AFP, out of the 12 medals won, all 10 of the country's individual gold medals were earned by athletes from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya and Morocco.

Bahrain has long recruited African talent by granting citizenship to high-performing foreign athletes. This practice sparked controversy during the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, and is warranting a similar reaction now.

To some, the poaching of African athletes means that their home countries miss out on their best athletes because other nations are willing to pay more. For many African athletes, competing for foreign nations that offer increased financial rewards for their skill seems like a no-brainer.

READ: How Countries Poach African Athletes To Win Olympic Medals

India finished at number eight in the overall medals tally, and many have blamed Bahrain's seemingly unfair recruiting practices and the dominance of African-born athletes for their country's losses. According to First Post, seven of India's wins were delivered under foreign coaches.


While many have complained that the practice creates an uneven playing field, offering citizenship on the basis of athleticism is a completely legal practice. It's also worth noting that much of the criticism surrounding the enlisting of African athletes by foreign teams are based on stereotypical assumptions about the physical capabilities of black bodies.

"They are more powerful and athletic," said Chinese athlete Su Bigtian during the 2014 Asian Games. "Physically we are at a disadvantage."

With all their success, it seems that countries like Bahrain have no incentive to stop recruiting African-born athletes. During the Rio Olympics, Pablo Uribe, wrote that the practice was not likely to end any time soon, and two years later, his statement stands.


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