Jewish and Israeli Athletes take part in 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics


Just three Jewish athletes will be part of TEAM USA at the 2010 Olympics, according to wire reports.

Laura Spector, 22, a Jewish studies and genetics major at Dartmouth College, will be part of the U.S. biathlon team, which consists of cross-country skiing followed by pace-changing target shooting.

Also taking part are Ben Agosto, a silver medalist in ice-dancing pairs in 2006, and bobsledder Steve Mesler, taking part in his third Olympic Games.

With just some 80 countries represented in Vancouver, the Winter Olympics typically draw just half as many countries as the Summer Games.

In a somewhat controversial stance, Israel is sending just three athletes. According to wire reports, the Israeli Olympic Committee has decided only to send athletes that are considered to have a chance to win a medal.

That will mean that Israeli skater Tamar Katz will be staying home, even though she qualified for the Olympics according to her results at the European Figure Skating Championships in January. Due to a missed routine in her performance, Katz finished in 21st place, just ˝ point away from qualifying for the finals of the European Championships, but good enough to meet IOC standards.

“I think the Israeli Olympic Committee should not be harder on the athletes than the International Olympic Committee,” commented Israeli tennis legend Shlomo Glickstein, currently professional director of the Israeli Tennis Association.


In the months before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Israel’s top current tennis player, Dudi Sela, was ranked at 71 in ATP rankings. Olympic standards permit participation by anyone in the top 100, but Israel decided to set the bar at the top 50, and Sela, too, was forced to stay home.

When Israel first started to send athletes to the Winter Games in 1988 (as a result of the influx of Russian émigré athletes excelling in winter sports), the idea was just to be represented. Now, having won seven medals in the Summer Games but none as of yet in the Winter Olympics, the Israeli Olympic Committee is choosing not to send athletes who might not end up on the medal stand, saying the “Israel is not really a winter sport country,” (Though neither is Jamaica, for that matter… Remember the Jamaican bobsled team? – Ed.)

Katz, who was born in the U.S. to Israeli parents and trains part-time in Rockland County, NY (and at Israel’s only ice skating rink in the northernmost Israeli city of Metulla the rest of the time) feels that an important opportunity is being missed, citing that more exposure in front of the judges is an important factor. “If they want me to medal in 2014, they should have sent me now,” she commented.

With Katz out of the picture, the Israeli delegation will consist of three athletes: downhill skier Mikail Renzhin, and the brother-and-sister ice-dancing pair of Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky.


Photo by Yediot Aharonot.