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Updated Jul 25, 2014 - 5:00 am

Valley Olympian becomes US citizen

PHOENIX — One of Arizona’s greatest athletes now has a reason to feel extra patriotic.

Valley Olympian Darian Townsend can now call himself an American. He was emotional as he sang “God Bless America” for the first time as a citizen during his naturalization ceremony on Thursday.

“Now to be able to sing it as an American, it just feels really, really special,” Townsend said.

A feeling that continued, as Townsend did not celebrate his new found naturalization alone.

“[H]aving my friends here, a lot of my close friends here, to watch the ceremony; it’s a really special feeling,” he explained.

Townsend won a gold medal for South Africa in the 2004 Olympics, and he hopes to represent the U.S. in 2016.

“After making the Olympics three times for South Africa, I needed some new goals and I feel like I’m an American citizen right now and I am an American citizen so it’s a goal that I’m going to have to work real really hard towards,” he said.

But whether or not Townsend ever competes for the U.S., he said he couldn’t be happier to be one of America’s newest citizens.

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