All the Israeli & Jewish Athletes to Watch in the 2021 Olympics

Updated: Aug 1


The 2020 Olympic Games are finally upon us - in 2021 - and this year might be Israel's best chance to finally a grab a second gold medal in the Olympics. Not since Gal Fridman won gold in windsurfing in Athens in 2004 has an Israeli athlete stood atop the podium while representing Israel (others with Israeli citizenship have won while representing other countries - one of them is even the flag-bearer of the USA this year - I'm looking at you, Sue Bird). With our biggest-ever delegation heading to the Olympics (90 athletes), including in four new sports, i'm saying there is a chance...

Our best chance to win gold may be in the hands of the absolutely incredible Linoy Ashram, a 22-year old who is one of the top athletes in the world in the sport of rhythmic gymnastics (she won the European all-around championship in 2020). She will face some stiff competition, however, from the Russian athletes who have taken home 35 of the last 42 Olympic medals in the sport. Here are 18 things to know about her... https://www.heyalma.com/18-things-to-know-about-israeli-gymnast-linoy-ashram/


Check out her gold-medal winning routines from the 2020 European Championships below...


Another top possibility - if he is healthy - is gymnast Artem Dolgopyat - who made aliyah from Ukraine when he was 12 years old. Dolgopyat won a silver medal at the 2019 world championships and a gold medal ant the 2020 European championships, both in the floor exercise, but has suffered through a number of injuries in recent years as well.

That being said, our best sport has always been judo. Five of Israel's nine medals in total come from the sport of judo (including bronzes in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 by Or Sasson - pictured - and Yarden Gerbi) and this year we have multiple athletes who have a good chance at winning a medal. For more check out this article: https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/sports/israels-judokas-to-take-center-stage-at-2021-tokyo-olympics-673932.

Photo by AFP.


Unfortunately, despite hope that the Abraham Accords might soften the tone around the issue of Arab/Muslim countries participating in sporting matches against Israeli competitors, we have already seen a withdrawal from the Olympics by an Algerian judoka who was scheduled to face an Israeli in the second round. For more on this issue, click here: https://www.timesofisrael.com/algerian-judoka-said-to-quit-olympics-in-order-to-not-face-israeli-opponent/


Perhaps the most exciting story from this year's Olympics - and the reason for Israel's biggest-ever delegation - is that somehow, tiny Israel, became one of only six countries to qualify for the Olympics in baseball (after ranking 48th in the world only four years ago). For more on this incredible underdog story click here:

https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/sports/israel-baseballs-field-of-dreams-ahead-of-summer-olympics-673954

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/17/nyregion/israel-olympic-baseball-team.html


Israel's flag-bearers are swimmer Yaakov Toumarkin and triple jumper Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko. It's a great moment for us olim here in Israel, as both athletes made Aliyah - Toumarkin from Russia and Knyazyeva-Minenko from Ukraine.


It is the third Olympic games for both athletes.


For some really cool human interest stories on Israel's team (including some married couples and twins), make sure to check out these 11 fun-facts courtesy Israel 21C.... https://www.israel21c.org/11-things-to-know-as-israel-gears-up-for-tokyo-olympics/



Perhaps the most important Israeli/Jewish moment of the Olympics has already happened. After 49 years, the Olympics finally decided to make a point to remember the 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics. Perhaps next time they won't just say, "they lost their lives;" still this was a great initiative which was way overdue. Read more about it here: https://www.jpost.com/breaking-news/tokyo-olympics-moment-of-silence-held-for-israeli-munich-massacre-victims-674722 You can watch it here:


Don't want to miss a minute of the action? Here is the full schedule for Israel's Olympic team:

https://www.timesofisrael.com/full-schedule-for-israels-athletes-at-the-tokyo-2020-olympics/

And here is a list of notable Jewish athletes to watch from around the world:

https://www.timesofisrael.com/tokyo-olympics-all-the-jewish-athletes-to-watch/


The Associated Press meanwhile is predicting 7 medals for Israel at these Olympics, including a gold. Considering that Israel has only won one gold medal in its history, and no more than two medals at any individual Olympics, getting even half of that would be an incredible achievement. You can see their predictions here: https://www.timesofisrael.com/ap-predicts-israel-to-win-7-medals-in-tokyo-including-gold-in-mens-gymnastics/


And even if we don't win gold, we can always console ourselves that it was an Israeli who first came up with idea of silver and bronze medals - or at least second and third place prizes. That's right, it was none other than King Herod of Judea at his Caesarea Games, who instituted that athletic revolution. He also funded the rebuilding of the Olympic venues in Greece (after Rome's conquest) and was named the Head of the Olympic Games for Now and Evermore. So we have that going for us, which is nice :).


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