Tag Archives: Jewish Olympians

Jews of the Week: Sarah Hughes and Dylan Moscovitch

World-Class Figure Skaters

Sarah Hughes, with former president George W. Bush

Sarah Hughes, with former president George W. Bush

Sarah Hughes (b. 1985) was born in New York to an Irish-Canadian father and a Jewish mother. She began ice skating when she was just three years old. By 1988 she won the US Junior Championships in figure skating, and the following year took silver at the World Junior Championships. After strong performances at a number of other events, Hughes qualified for the 2002 Winter Olympics, and graced the cover of TIME Magazine. Despite being just 16 years old, and the underdog, she won the gold medal at the Olympics in Salt Lake City. Away from the rink, Hughes is an active breast cancer awareness spokesperson, inspired by her mother, who is a breast cancer survivor. For over a decade, Hughes has also worked with Figure Skating in Harlem, a program providing free skating lessons to disadvantaged girls, as well as Skate for Hope, and the Women’s Sports Foundation. She graduated from Yale University in 2009.

Dylan David Moscovitch

Dylan David Moscovitch (b. 1984) is a Canadian figure skater with Romanian, Russian, and South African Jewish roots. He began skating at 13 months, and went on to compete in pairs figure skating competitions. He won gold and a couple of silvers at Canadian Championships, as well as a silver at the Four Continents Championships in Japan. Moscovitch competed at the Sochi Olympics earlier this year and won silver there, too. When not on the ice, he teaches the Israeli martial art Krav Maga.

Words of the Week

Where is God found? Wherever you let Him in.
– Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, the Kotzker Rebbe

Jew of the Week: Shaul Ladany

The Ultimate Survivor

Shaul Ladany

Shaul Ladany

Shaul Paul Ladany¬†(b. 1936) was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. When he was 5, the Nazis bombed his hometown and his family fled to Hungary. A few years later, with nowhere else to turn, his parents hid him in a monastery. The plan failed and the whole family was caught and sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where they spent six months. Many of them died there, but Ladany and his parents were lucky to be saved by a group of American Jews who ransomed out 2000 prisoners. In 1948, the family made aliyah to Israel. There, Ladany earned a Master’s in Engineering from Technion. He later got a Ph.D from Columbia University. During his studies, Ladany trained himself to become a marathon runner, then switched to race-walking. He would go on to win 38 national titles globally, and set a new world record that stills stands to this day (50 miles in under 7 and a half hours). He participated in his second Olympic games in Munich in 1972, wanting to make a statement as a Holocaust survivor competing in Germany. The night after his race, Palestinian terrorists broke into the Israeli quarters. Ladany managed to escape by jumping out of his window, and rushed to notify the authorities of the attack. Sadly, 11 of the 16 Israelis were killed. Ladany went back to race-walking soon after, winning a gold medal at the World Championships the same year, then breaking more records, and becoming the first person to ever win both the American Open and American Masters championships. Despite his age, Ladany continues to compete, setting another record in 2006 as the first 70 year-old to walk 100 miles in under 24 hours. He recently swam across the Sea of Galilee, and did a 300 km walk across Europe. It is estimated that he has walked over half a million miles over his life. On top of this, Ladany was a professor of industrial engineering for over 30 years, publishing over 120 scholarly books and articles (in addition to an autobiography), and has lectured in universities around the world. He holds eight patents, speaks nine languages, and has been inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Unbelievably, he has also defeated both skin cancer and lymphoma – no wonder that he has been nicknamed “the Ultimate Survivor”. He still walks at least 15 kilometers every day.

Words of the Week

A person should have two pockets in his coat. One should contain the Talmudic saying: “For my sake was the world created.” In the second pocket he should keep the Torah verse: “I am but dust and ashes.”
– Rabbi Simchah Bunim of Peshischa

Jews of the Week: Keleti and Gorokhovskaya

Gorokhovskaya and Keleti

Agnes Keleti (b. 1921) was born in Budapest and was Hungary’s national gymnastics champion by age 16. Shortly after, World War II began, forcing Keleti to go into hiding. Much of her family, including her father, were killed in the Holocaust. Keleti¬†survived by posing as a Christian villager. After the war, she began training once more, but had to overcome injuries that prevented her from competing. Determined to go on, she qualified for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, and won 4 medals, including a gold. Keleti returned to the Olympics in 1956, winning 6 more medals, 3 of which were gold. Being 35 years old at the time made her the oldest-ever gold medal winner in her sport. Her ten total medals makes her among the most decorated female athletes of all time. She also won at the 1954 World Championship. After the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary in 1956, Keleti immigrated to Israel, where she still lives today.

A very similar story is that of Maria Gorokhovskaya. Like Keleti, she was born in 1921 (in Ukraine) and took up gymnastics at a young age. After surviving the war, she also competed at the 1952 Helsinki Games, winning 2 golds and 5 silvers. Her 7 medals in one Olympiad is still a world record. Like Keleti, Gorokhovskaya won at the 1954 World Championships, too. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, she made aliyah to Israel in 1990. Both Keleti and Gorokhovskaya have been inducted in the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. In addition, Keleti has been inducted to the Hungarian and Gymnastics Halls of Fame.

Words of the Week

Everything that is for the sake of God should be of the best and most beautiful… When one feeds the hungry, one should feed them of the best and sweetest of one’s table. When one clothes the naked, one should clothe them with the finest of one’s clothes.
– Maimonides