Monday, July 23, 2012

America’s Jewish Olympians head to London with Jewish pride

Jason Lezak, right, after winning the gold medal
for the U.S. 400-meter medley relay team
at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, August 2008. (Creative Commons)
Jason Lezak -- no newcomer to Olympic glory -- recognizes the difficulty in returning to the medal stand at the London Games….

The Jewish swimmer, the winner of four Olympic gold medals, will race for the United States in the 400-meter freestyle relay -- the event in which he provided one of the most enduring moments of the 2008 Games in Beijing. His frenetic sprint to the finish in the last leg, overcoming world record-holder Alain Bernard, earned victory for the U.S. and kept alive Michael Phelps’ drive for a record-setting eight gold medals.

This year, in his fourth Olympics, the 36-year-old Lezak is one of five captains for the 530-member American squad. Fellow Jews joining Lezak on the U.S. contingent at the London Games, which has its opening ceremonies on July 27, include swimmer Anthony Ervin, gymnasts Alexandra Raisman and Julie Zetlin, rower David Banks, fencer Tim Morehouse and fencing coach Yury Gelman.

(Illinois-born Jillian Schwartz, a pole vaulter on the American team at the 2004 Athens Olympics, will be representing Israel.)

Some touted Jewish athletes didn’t make the cut this time. They include swimmers Dara Torres (five Olympics, 12 medals), Garret Weber-Gale (two gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games), Andrea Murez (2012 NCAA champion in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays), Daniel Madwed (2012 Big Ten champion in four events) and Eric Friedland. Also not heading to London to compete are soccer player Yael Averbuch and gymnast David Sender. -- Hillel Kuttler, JTA

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