Aly Raisman at the 2016 Rio Olympics (Credit: Fernando Frazao/Agencia Brasil)
Alexandra Rose Raisman (b. 1994) was born in Massachusetts. As the eldest daughter of a gymnast, she was introduced to gymnastics at just two years old, and was inspired by watching that year’s Olympics US women’s team. At 14, she started competing in both national and international events. After two successful years, she signed as a professional athlete and received sponsorship from Ralph Lauren. The following year, she tried out for the American Olympic team and placed third overall. Raisman made it to the 2012 London Olympics as part of the team nicknamed the “Fierce Five”. She dedicated her floor routine (set to the tune of Hava Nagila) to the Israeli terror victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics (see it here). It won her the gold medal, making her the first American woman to win a gold medal in floor exercise. She went on to win two gold medals and one bronze medal – the most decorated American gymnast at the London games. She returned to the 2016 Rio games as captain of the team nicknamed the “Final Five” (since the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will switch to a four-team format, and the US team will have a different coach). Raisman has won three more medals in Rio – a gold and two silvers – making her the second most decorated Olympic gymnast in American history. Away from the Olympics, she has won over a dozen other medals at the World Championships, the Pacific Rim Championships, and the American Cup. Raisman has also appeared on the television shows Dancing With the Stars and Gold Medal Families, and was featured in the documentary Aly Raisman: Quest for Gold. When she isn’t training, Raisman often volunteers with the Special Olympics and with UNICEF, among other organizations. In 2013, she lit the flames at the Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Words of the Week
Cherish criticism, for it will place you on the true heights. – Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber of Lubavitch
William Scott Goldberg (b. 1966 ) was born in Oklahoma to a Jewish family of Romanian and Russian heritage. He grew up going to Tulsa’s Temple Israel, where he had his bar mitzvah, and playing football from a young age. Goldberg studied at the University of Georgia on a football scholarship, and was drafted into the NFL by the Los Angeles Rams in 1990. He played for several teams over the next five years, but his career was cut short with a serious abdominal injury. While doing rehab for this injury, Goldberg started mixed martial arts training. He was soon spotted by some wrestlers who suggested he take up the sport, so he began training at the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) school, called the Power Plant. Goldberg had his first match in the summer of 1997, and went undefeated for nearly 80 matches before winning the US Heavyweight Championship. By the summer of 1998, he defeated Hulk Hogan for the World Heavyweight Championship. Goldberg continued to mesmerize audiences around the globe, and became the world’s highest-paid wrestler, making $2.5 million a year. In 2001, while he was recovering from another injury, the WCW was bought out by WWF, and the new company did not take on his contract. Goldberg went on to wrestle in Japan, then came back to the US and joined the WWE. He had his last match in 2004 at WrestleMania XX, which he won. In 2006, Goldberg began working as a commentator for various mixed martial arts events. Meanwhile, he has starred in eleven films, and made appearances on 26 television shows. Goldberg is also a big advocate for animal rights and welfare, and has even addressed Congress on behalf of this cause. Goldberg has always been proud of his Jewish heritage, and refused to wrestle on Yom Kippur. Today, he runs a mixed-martial arts gym in California, and visits sick children in the hospital in his spare time.
Words of the Week
There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self. – Aldous Huxley
Noad “Neo” Lahat (b. 1984) was born in Alfei Menashe, Israel, the son of two former IDF generals. He began practicing Judo when he was 5 years old. After serving for three and a half years in the Israeli Army, Lahat started learning Brazilian jiu-jitsu and by 2010 was the world champion in the sport. Having earned two black belts (in judo and jiu-jitsu), he was introduced to mixed martial arts by a friend. Lahat moved to San Jose and began training with the American Kickboxing Academy. He was undefeated in all of his mixed martial arts bouts when he was finally invited to the UFC. Although he lost his first match, Lahat came back for a second go on July 26 and earned his first UFC victory. He is now on his way back to Israel, choosing to go back to the IDF and help the Israeli Army in the current Gaza conflict. This was a purely voluntary decision that has won him the admiration of many. In his post-victory interview Lahat said, “My mom and my dad have 15 seconds to run to get shelter when missiles are falling on them, and I’m here in sunny California. I love California, but I need to go and defend my home… As a combat soldier, there’s nothing I want more in the world than peace… I don’t want to see more killing and more blood. The only blood [should be] in the Octagon.”
Words of the Week
It’s just another round of this ridiculous game. Hamas are shooting at us. We try to respond, but we can’t because most of the world… don’t let us finish the job and take Hamas down. So we stop, and then they’re shooting again. – Noad Lahat