U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman and athletes from Down Under were the story for Jewish sports fans at the London Olympics.
Raisman, who performs her floor routines to the melody of “Hava Negillah,” won an individual gold medal Aug. 7 in the floor exercise as well as a bronze on the balance beam after helping the U.S. women’s gymnastics team take the gold a week earlier.
Her bronze came after the U.S. lodged a protest against the original result. Raisman, 18, of Needham, Mass., had finished fourth, but the judges agreed to a rescoring, putting her in a tie with Romania’s Catalina Ponor. Under a tie-breaking procedure, Raisman took the medal with a higher difficulty score. Raisman defeated Ponor again in the floor exercise final.
Meanwhile, there was something good in the water for Jewish athletes from Down Under.
Australian kayaker Jessica Fox, 18, won a silver medal in the K-1 kayak slalom. Her first Olympic medal followed a family tradition: Her mother, Myriam Jerusalmi Fox, won a bronze in the same race for France at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Her British father, Richard, finished fourth in the same event at the 1992 Olympics and was appointed coach of the Australian kayak team before the 2000 Sydney Games.
“My mum won bronze in Atlanta and now here I am winning silver; it’s an amazing thing to share,” Jessica Fox told media after the final.
At midweek, New Zealand sailor Jo Aleh was in good position to win her first Olympic medal as her event headed into its final stretch. Aleh, whose parents, Shuki and Daniella, lived in Israel before moving to Auckland, and teammate Olivia Powrie were in first after eight of 10 races in the 470 event.
The medal race is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 10.
Aleh’s father flew in from Israel to watch, while her mother arrived from New Zealand. Aleh has two half-siblings who both live in Israel, according to a report in the Forward. After the Olympics, the family is reportedly traveling there for her half-sister’s bat mitzvah.
Australian sprinter Steven Solomon’s bid for a medal ended when he ran out of steam in the 400-meter final. Solomon trailed the pack Aug. 6, finishing eighth in 45.14 seconds — his second fastest time.
The 19-year-old runner, who played soccer at the 2009 Maccabiah before taking up sprinting, heaped praise on his Jewish Ukrainian coach, 78-year-old Fira Dvoskina, who could not travel to London but was coaching him via Skype.
Israeli athletes were not faring well and, for the first time since 1988, are returning home without a medal.
Windsurfer Lee Korzits, Israel’s likely last hope for a medal, finished the medal race in ninth place, dropping from second place to sixth in the overall rankings. Shahar Tzuberi, the bronze medalist from Beijing, did not qualify for the medal event.
Also, Israeli judoka Arik Zeevi, who predicted he would win a medal at the London Olympics, lost his opening match. Dmitri Peters of Germany put Zeevi in a headlock in their 100 kg. match on Aug. 2, forcing the 35-year-old Israeli to tap out after 43 seconds, the Times of Israel reported. He had tears in his eyes as he left the mat.
Female judoka Alice Schlessinger, another Israeli medal hope, was eliminated early as well.
On Aug. 5, Israeli gymnast Alex Shatilov finished sixth in the floor exercise finals. Shatilov, 25, had finished 12th last week in the individual all-around final.
In an odd incident, Israeli sprinter Donald Sanford was forced to borrow running shoes, saying his had been stolen and that he did not have the opportunity to warm up. He argued unsuccessfully with the judges for more time and failed to advance out of the first round in the 400 meters, though he did run his personal best time of the season.
Meanwhile, French Olympic swimmer Fabien Gilot grabbed some attention with a Hebrew tattoo on his left arm that he said is a tribute to his late grandmother’s husband, a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz. Gilot, who is not Jewish, said the tattoo is dedicated to his family and honors Max Goldschmidt, who has been a major influence in his life, Ynet reported. The tattoo says, “I’m nothing without them.”
Gilot revealed the tattoo, which is on the inside of his left arm, after exiting the pool following his team’s gold medal–winning performance in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.
Outside the competition, there was news as well. German Olympic rower Nadja Drygalla left the Olympic Village following claims that her boyfriend is a member of an extremist political party inspired by the Nazis. She had already finished competing at the Games as part of the women’s rowing eight team and reportedly left of her own accord after a 90-minute conversation with German officials.
Media reports said her boyfriend was a leading member of a regional National Socialist group, the Rostock National Socialists, and had worked in a state election for the far-right National Democratic Party. Germany’s intelligence agency describes the NDP as racist, anti-Semitic and inspired by the Nazis.