Sports

In the Russian-American community of Brighton Beach, the Sochi Olympics are big

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Credit: Stephen Nessen

Copies of Argumenty i Fakty, a weekly newspaper from Moscow, for sale in Brighton Beach near the Jack's Barber Shop. The New York neighborhood is home to many Jewish-Russian immigrants from Odessa and is often called "Little Odessa."

New York’s Brighton Beach neighborhood has one of the largest Russian communities in the US. So you might expect the Sochi Olympics to be a big deal there and it is.

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At Jack’s Barber Shop, a flat screen TV hangs from the wall and is blaring the Winter Olympics. Regina Vudina, a hairdresser who works at Jack's, sneaks a peek at the TV as she swabs dye on a customer's spikey hair. Onscreen, cross-country skiers jab their poles into the ground, thrusting themselves uphill.

"I love the Olympics," Vudina says. She leaves the TV on in the shop for hours, with a constant stream of Olympic coverage.

Vudina came from Odessa, a large port city in the southern part of what is now Ukraine. She’s particularly taken with the aerial sports. "[It's] magic ... unusual, how people jump," she says. "This is like people from space and these kids — 17, 18, 21, 22 — this is like magic."

Growing up in Russia, Vudina remembers sports were a big deal. "For us, sport is number one," she says. "Since young age, we prepare for sports, we run, always I go to gym since young age."

But Vudina has lived in Brighton Beach for 22 years. So I asked her who she was cheering for — America? Russia? Perhaps a little bit of both?

She sighs and tells me, "Listen, I live right now in America. Just for me, it's more interesting to see who have more power. It's interesting. This is a sport, for me, it is sport. It is who is more strong, who has prepared for this."

And with that, Vudina went back to work, in a neighborhood where — if you can’t make it to Sochi — it isn’t a bad place to catch the Olympic spirit.

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