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Saturday, August 29, 2015

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Israeli hopefuls and the Olympics

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We continue our look at the Olympics with a preview of Israel’s team in London.

This year’s Israeli delegation is far different from the one the country sent when it first competed in Helsinki in 1952. Then, the most notable achievement was by Yoav Ra’anan, who took ninth place in springboard diving. [http://bit.ly/jolymp40]

Over the next four decades, participating was Israel’s main objective. It finally won its first two medals in 1992 in Barcelona, and athletes have brought back at least one medal in each summer game since. [http://bit.ly/jolymp41]

You can see the beaming faces of this year’s hopefuls at the Olympic Committee of Israel’s official site. [http://bit.ly/jolymp29] Most of the site is in Hebrew, but there are some English pages. [http://bit.ly/jolymp30] Even if you don’t speak Hebrew, there are dozens of videos of athletes in action. [http://bit.ly/jolymp31]

The best English website for reading up about the current Israeli team is Wikipedia. Each competitor is listed, and many are linked to their own entries. [http://bit.ly/jolymp32]

So who are some of the athletes to watch? Here are some brief portraits.

Windsurfer Lee Korzits “made history by becoming the first female Israeli world champion at any sport, and the youngest surfer to ever win the world title.” In 2009, her career was in jeopardy when she was hit by another surfer and broke two ribs. After rehabilitation, she returned to competition and will represent Israel this summer. [http://bit.ly/jolymp33]

Ariel Ze’evi is back. The three-time European champion won bronze in Athens in 2004 in judo. Watch him take on the competition in some great video at judovision.org. [http://bit.ly/jolymp34]

Last year, Neta Rivkin made history when she became the first Israeli to win a medal at the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships. Her reaction: “Words cannot describe what I’m feeling and my joy. I have a powerful desire to bring more achievements to our small and beautiful land.” [http://bit.ly/jolymp35]

And you really have to admire the stamina of Sergy Rikter. The world-class shooter knows how to excel with an air rifle. But when training funds were short, Rikter took matters into his own hands and set up a website to solicit funds to help finance his Olympic dream. [http://bit.ly/jolymp36] Things seem to have worked out since Rikter has been selected for Israel’s delegation to London. [http://bit.ly/jolymp42]

Over the years, Israel has won seven medals in three sports: judo, sailing and canoeing. That’s not bad, but perhaps if other categories were introduced into the Games, Israelis and Jews everywhere could do even better. Ohr Somayach nominates: kippah Frisbee; the 18-blessing lip-sprint; the clean and jerk Torah lift; underwater shofar blowing. [http://bit.ly/jolymp38]

 And if Stuart Spector had his way, Jewish events would include:

• Balance beam: The accountant or bookkeeper who balances my mother’s chequebook in the shortest time will be declared winner.

• Oyga vault: A sound-enhanced pole-vault competition, in which the vaulter gains extra points for exclaiming, “Oy, such tsuris this is causing me!”

And my favourite competition, naches shlep – proud bubbies and zaides have two minutes to boast about their grandchildren. [http://bit.ly/jolymp39]


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