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Van Cliburn medalist fulfills dream
Fort Worth Star Telegram ^ | 11/10/2004 | Aman Batheja

Posted on 11/10/2004 6:34:26 AM PST by jtminton

Alexei Sultanov's left hand doesn't play anymore, the result of a stroke, but the pianist was determined to perform America the Beautiful to celebrate his U.S. citizenship.

So Tuesday morning, with his body buckled into a wheelchair and an American flag rising from behind it, Alexei called upon his wife, Dace, to play the left hand part.

Together, as Alexei's right hand glided effortlessly over the keys, they drew out a stirring, delicate version of the patriotic hymn.

Dace, a cellist, glanced every few notes at her husband and held back tears.

"It's too emotional," Dace said afterward. "He's always wanted to be an American since he was a little boy."

Alexei and Dace were among 594 people sworn in as U.S. citizens Tuesday at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

The couple moved to Fort Worth from Russia after Alexei won the gold medal at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1989. The Cliburn victory brought instant stardom to Alexei, who was born in Uzbekistan, and he quickly became fond of Fort Worth, where he had made many close friends, Dace said.

"We love Fort Worth," she said. "It's our home."

The couple had approached federal officials the previous day about performing at the ceremony. For Dace, 36, it fulfilled a promise to her husband, who had always hoped to perform a patriotic song when he became an American.

In February 2001, Alexei suffered a head injury and was treated for a subdural hemotoma, excessive bleeding that put pressure on his brain. Complications from surgery resulted in a stroke that affected the left side of his body, Dace said.

The couple had planned to become citizens in 2001, but Alexei's stroke interrupted the process, Dace said.

Alexei, 35, is struggling to regain control of his left side. He and Dace walk daily, swim regularly and ride horseback once a week as part of his rehabilitation.

They have also recently begun performing together, mostly in doctor's officers and nursing homes, Dace said.

"We play anywhere so we can make people as happy as we are," she said.


New U.S. citizens

• Almost 600 people from 90 countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens Tuesday during a ceremony at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

• Judge Charles Bleil, who led the ceremony, made a point of singling out two members of the military who gained citizenship.

• Lois Colon, 34, from Nigeria, has served in the Navy for three years.

• Christian Villalobos, 24, from Mexico, has served in the Marines since 2000, including two tours of duty in Iraq. "My legs are shaking right now," Villalobos said after the ceremony.

• After reciting the Oath of Allegiance, which completed the naturalization process, the group erupted in joy when Judge Bleil said, "Congratulations, my fellow Americans."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Aman Batheja, (817) 390-7752

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: citizenship; fortworth; vancliburn
I thought this was inspiring.
1 posted on 11/10/2004 6:34:26 AM PST by jtminton
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To: jtminton

Van Cliburn medalist Alexei Sultanov, left, and his wife, Dace, play America the Beautiful during their naturalization ceremony Tuesday at the Tarrant County Convention Center.

Dace Sultanov embraces her husband, Van Cliburn medalist Alexei Sultanov, after their naturalization ceremony Tuesday.

2 posted on 11/10/2004 6:36:13 AM PST by jtminton (<><)
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To: jtminton

You're right, it is inspiring!

3 posted on 11/10/2004 6:47:45 AM PST by Jabba the Nutt (Michael Moore: Will lie for food and I stay busy!)
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To: jtminton

I have a DVD of his Tchaikovski #1 and he was fabulous. It's been a long, long road, with a long way to go. What a spirit!

4 posted on 11/10/2004 6:52:17 AM PST by jammer
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To: jtminton

I am sitting here crying. This Russian becoming American, celebrated his love of America better than most of us!

Thank you for sharing the story!

5 posted on 11/10/2004 7:22:02 AM PST by AReaganGirl (In whom do we trust? Should we trust man to watch over us? No! Let us trust the Lord!)
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To: jtminton

Tragic loss of talent. Hope he can recover fully.

6 posted on 11/10/2004 7:41:21 AM PST by Finalapproach29er (You can drive from coast to coast and never pass through a single county won by Kerry.)
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