An Australian sprinter, Boston-born gymnast and a sailor from New Zealand meet at a synagogue. While that could be the start of a joke, it could also be reality as Jewish athletes come together during the 2012 London Olympics from next week.
Not surprisingly, the Israeli delegation is not the only one with Jewish athletes on it. There were always tribe members competing under a flag different from the blue-and-white Star of David.
German born Alfred Flatow was one of five Jewish medal-winning athletes at the 1896 games in Athens, finishing with three gold medals and a silver. Since the first games of the modern era, Jews have stood on the podium in every Olympic gathering. In London, besides the Israeli delegation, there will be a handful of tribe members hoping to continue the tradition.
Steven Solomon is the only Jewish athlete from down under. The sprinter, who specializes in the 400 meter dash, won the bronze medal at the World Junior Athletics Championships in Barcelona at the beginning of July, and was a member of the Australian team that placed fourth in the 4X400 relay race.
Jo Aleh from Auckland is New Zealand’s lone Jewish athlete. The 26 year-old sailor placed 7th at the Beijing games in ’08, and, with a new sailing partner, hopes to improve her results this time around.
The US, one of the largest teams at the games, has had many Jews compete for it over the years, including swimmer Mark Spitz and other legends. On the delegation to London 2012, there are four Jewish members:
Steve Gluckstein of New Jersey is a first-time Olympian competing in the trampoline category. The 22 year-old is a former world champion and three time US champion.
Aly Raisman, an 18 year-old from Massachusetts, is a member of the US’s athletic team. Among her many accomplishments — which include three medals at least year’s world championships — one can also find her medal winning Hava Nagilah themed routine.
Jason Lezak, from California, has won a remarkable seven Olympic medals since the 2000 games, including four golds. The swimmer was world champion twice, and is the oldest member of the US’s delegation to London. In 2009 Lezak was a prominent member of the American team at the Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Julie Zetlin is a rhythmic gymnast, who won gold at the pan-America games in 2011. Born in Maryland, the 22 year-old — who twice tore her meniscus — knows London will probably be her last large event.
Josh Binstock will play beach volleyball for Canada. The 31 year-old from Toronto will also be representing his country at the 19th Maccabiah Games.
There will be nine rabbis at the Olympic village, available to all those who wish to speak with them. They will also take turns leading Jewish prayer services at the multi-faith chaplaincy located on the compound. Maybe one of the nine will soon get chatting to a sprinter, a gymnast and a sailor.