Tag Archives: World Championships

Jew of the Week: Aly Raisman

Aly Raisman at the 2016 Rio Olympics (Credit: Fernando Frazao/Agencia Brasil)

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

Jews of the Week: Naomi Kutin & Scot Mendelson

The World’s Strongest People

Naomi Kutin, "Supergirl" (courtesy: www.jewpop.com)

Naomi Kutin, “Supergirl”
(courtesy: www.jewpop.com)

Naomi Kutin (b. 2001) was born in New Jersey to a Modern Orthodox family. Her father is a former professional weightlifter (with a number of records under his belt), and introduced his daughter to the sport when she was just eight years old after noting her incredible strength. A few months later, Naomi went to her first competition, and broke a national record. At age 10, she set a world record in women’s powerlifting, breaking an earlier record set by a 44-year old woman! Two years later, she squatted over 231 pounds to set a new women’s world record, despite being just 12 years old. She has earned the nickname “supergirl”, and is often described as the world’s strongest young lady. Naomi doesn’t let her weightlifting get in the way of religious observance; she still goes to an Orthodox school and never competes on Shabbat.

Scot Mendelson (courtesy: Powerlifting USA)

Scot Mendelson
(courtesy: Powerlifting USA)

Meanwhile, the world’s greatest bench-presser is also Jewish, Brooklyn-born Scot Mendelson (b. 1969). Growing up playing sports, Mendelson progressed from ball games to wrestling, boxing, bodybuilding, and finally powerlifting. In 2003, he set the all-time world record (regardless of weight class) by bench pressing 713 pounds. All in all, he has broken over 60 records in his career, winning four World Championships. He currently resides in California, where he operates a gym, and also runs a wellness centre together with actor Eric Roberts.

Words of the Week

Those who are born are destined to die, and those who die are destined to live again.
– Pirkei Avot 4:22

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