High Profile Expat Success Stories: Sports

21 November 2013


Following our High Profile Expat Success Stories, we now bring you the athletes. A sports career is very competitive and limited. There are only a few years for an athlete to make the most of his prime in sports and this means going the distance when it comes to training and chasing opportunities.


Athletes are constant travellers willing to move from one country to another to be the best in their chosen field. Circumstances like tradeoffs, scouting and drafting are opportunities to excel and hence moving from one country to another is something that athletes should always be prepared for.  The determination to follow the best paths for the betterment of their career makes them naturals to the expat lifestyle. Here are a few of the world’s greatest athlete’s today who travelled the world for the pursuit of their dreams.


Yao Ming


Originally From: China

Ancestry: Chinese

Lived as an expat in: USA

Notable Accomplishment: Houston Rockets Center


Certainly a “stand out” in any list, Yao Ming is one of the most famous athletes from China. Yao Ming was drafted for the NBA in 1999 following a challenging career in the CBA. His experiences as an expat in the US have been the topic of many studies, books and even documentary films such as “The Year of the Yao” and “Yao: A Life in Two Worlds”. After struggling in his rookie days at the NBA, Yao Ming proceeded to become a valuable asset for the Houston Rockets and proved all his critics wrong. Up until his retirement, he carried the Houston Rockets to success and held the title of the tallest active player in the NBA with the height of 7 ft 6 inches.


Cristiano Ronaldo


Originally From: Portugal

Ancestry: Portuguese

Lived as an expat in: UK and Spain

Notable Accomplishment: Manchester United Forward


Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the world’s best and most famous football players today. Ronaldo was born and raised in Portugal where he started his career in football. He achieved international fame in 2003 when he signed in as the first Portuguese player of the most famous football team in the world, Manchester United in England. He went on as an asset for Manchester United until he was traded to Real Madrid where he is currently playing.


Maria Sharapova


Originally From: Russia

Ancestry: Russian

Lived as an expat in: USA

Notable Accomplishment: Ranked World No. 1 in 2005


Maria Sharapova is one of the best and most famous female tennis players today. Sharapova is originally from Russia where she started her training for tennis until her migration to the US in 1994. Maria Sharapova went on to win Grand Slam singles titles in the US, Australian and French Open and also in Wimbledon. She is currently ranked World No. 3 just behind Venus and Serena Williams and is named one of the 100 greatest tennis players of all time.


Tony Parker


Originally From: Belgium

Ancestry: African-American, Dutch

Lived as an expat in: France, USA

Notable Accomplishment: FIBA Gold Medal, NBA San Antonio Spurs Point Guard


You can say that basketball is in Tony Parker’s blood. His father, Tony Parker Sr also played professional basketball but it wasn’t until after Parker watched Michael Jordan’s rise to success that he considered to pursue a professional basketball career. William Anthony “Tony” Parker Jr. was born in Belgium and soon migrated to France with his family where he lived most of his life. Parker built his skills around his weakness which is his height and worked on being a point-guard. He played amateur French leagues before he turned professional in 1999 when he signed with Paris Basket Racing. He was drafted for the NBA in 2001 for the San Antonio Spurs. Parker struggled to play at the NBA level at first but he eventually proved to everyone that he deserves his spot. He was named an All-Rookie First Team member in 2001-02 and became the first foreign born guard to receive that honour. He continuously excels in the NBA and is now one of the well known and well received NBA players with 3 championships under his belt.


Charlene, Princess of Monaco


Originally From: Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)

Ancestry: German-English

Lived as an expat in: South Africa, Monaco

Notable Accomplishment: Olympic Gold Medal for Swimming


Charlene, Princess of Monaco rose from a glittering athletic career to being one of the most controversial monarchs in Europe today. In true Grace Kelly-esque fashion, all eyes were on Charlene Wittstock when she married Prince Albert II, but before all of that, she made a name for herself in the world of sports. Wittstock was born in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe) and maintained a very humble lifestyle. Her family moved to South Africa when she was 11 years old and her mother, a competitive swimming coach started her on training for swimming. Wittstock raked in gold medals and championships throughout her professional career including 3 Olympic gold medals and 1 Olympic Silver medal for swimming as a representative for South Africa. Wittstock retired from her professional swimming career and moved to Monaco when she married Prince Albert II in 2011, but continues to support her sport as a Special Olympics ambassador for global movement. Princess Charlene’s story is a Sports celebrity expat turned princess.


Lionel Messi


Originally From: Argentina

Ancestry: Italian-Argentinian

Lived as an expat in: Spain

Notable Accomplishment: FIFA World Player of the Year, Olympic Gold Medal


Lionel “Leo” Messi is noted as one of the world’s top footballers today. Lionel Andres Messi was born to a poor family in a small province in Argentina. Messi developed an interest in football at a very young age and earned a local nickname “Machine of ‘87” in his hometown Rosario in Argentina. Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency at a young age, his parents couldn’t afford treatment for his condition, but because he shows great talent in football, he was eventually noticed and was scouted by FC Barcelona which offered to pay for his medical bills if he was willing to move to Spain. Messi continued his football career in Spain where he was accompanied by his father and has been a great success in the world of football. He has been awarded the FIFA World Player of the Year twice and achieved carried his team through the World Cup in 2006 and 2010. He is deemed one of the best there ever was in the world of football.


Mark Webber


Originally From: Australia

Ancestry: Australian

Lived as an expat in: UK

Notable Accomplishment: 2009 German Grandprix, 2012 British Grand Prix


In true athlete fashion, Mark Webber moved from Australia to the UK in 1995 to pursue a career in motor sport racing. As a son of a motorcycle dealer, Webber already had his sights set on racing at a young age. His heroes in racing are F1 racer Alain Prost and motorcycle racer Kevin Schwantz. Webber has tried various types of motor racing from karting to motorcycles, formula three, GT and of course Formula One. He started his career in Formula One in 2002 and debuted in his home country for the Australian Grand Prix. He moved on to becoming one of the most well known F1 racers in the world, signing up with the most powerful racing teams like Red Bull Racing, BMW Williams and Jaguar Racing. Webber continues his expat life in England with his partner and son, but also continues to travel the world for Grandprix races where he continues to finish in top spots.


Tim Tebow


Originally From: The Philippines

Ancestry: Belgian-American

Lived as an expat in: The Philippines

Notable Accomplishment: Quarterback of the Year 2007, Heisman Trophy 2007


Tim Tebow is a proud expat child. Timothy Richard Tebow was born to Pamela and Robert Tebow while living as Baptist missionaries in the Philippines in 1987. Tebow was born in Makati, Philippines under many complications which also put her mother in a coma while carrying him. He was then raised in the Philippines and was home schooled until their family’s return to the US. He inspired the law allowing home schooled children to participate in local high school sports which was later declared under his name as the Tim Tebow law. Following a great career in high school district football, he was offered an athletic scholarship in the University of Florida where he gained popularity as a football star before he even entered the major league. In 2007, Tebow took home the highest honour in American football, the Heisman trophy; beating out predecessors and major players that year. He was the first sophomore to ever win the Heisman trophy. Today, despite all the controversy, Tebow is still known as one of the best NFL Quarterbacks of all time. Tebow also continuously refers to himself as a Filipino and aids charities and foundations for hospitals in the Philippines.