Sports

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

This story is a part of

Global Nation

This story is a part of

Global Nation

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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."

Credit:

Stephen Nessen

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.