With 2012 being an Olympic year, it is of little surprise that four of The Jerusalem Post’s five nominees for Israeli Sports Personality of the Year have earned the honor mainly due to their accomplishments in London over the summer.
The likes of local superstars Omri Casspi, Shahar Pe’er and Yossi Benayoun have all missed out on a place on the shortlist for a second straight year, but each of the five candidates would be more than a worthy winner.
The Post’s sports department whittled down the list to five extraordinary personalities, but we are asking you, the readers, to help choose the individual who will be named the Israeli Sports Personality of the Year.
Click here to participate in the poll
The winner, who will be revealed in the December 28 issue of this newspaper, will follow in the footsteps of Lee Korzits (2011), Shahar Pe’er (2007, 2010), Omri Casspi (2009) and Paralympic swimming sensation Inbal Pezaro (2008).
Readers can vote until December 27 by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on www.jpost.com (Nominees are introduced by alphabetical order):
Any attempt to try and put Ran Ben- Shimon’s success at Ironi Kiryat Shmona into perspective seems destined for failure.
Until last season, only one Premier League championship title had been claimed by a club outside of the traditional big four since 1990.
Maccabi Haifa (9 titles), Betar Jerusalem (5 titles), Maccabi Tel Aviv (4 titles) and Hapoel Tel Aviv (2 titles) dominated Israeli soccer for the past two decades, with only the then nouveau-riche Hapoel Haifa crashing the party in 1998/99.
Kiryat Shmona, on the other hand, only came into existence in 2000, and became this year the first real small club to win the championship since Bnei Yehuda of Tel Aviv’s Hatikva neighborhood did so way back in the 1989/90 campaign.
Despite not having any notable stars, Ben-Shimon did an extraordinary job of molding together a cohesive unit at Kiryat Shmona and his team clinched the championship with five matches to spare, equaling the league record.
A fall-out with owner Izzy Sheratzky resulted in Ben-Shimon leaving Kiryat Shmona at the end of the season and the team has struggled for consistency ever since. Ben-Shimon, however, is now achieving success at AEK Larnaca of the Cypriot league, guiding the team to third place after 14 matches.
After 24 years, the Israeli delegation ended an Olympic Games without a medal in London. There was, however, one Israeli who did scale the podium.
Israelis have rarely had any sort of affinity for the national basketball team of Russia, but that all changed when David Blatt was named as its coach in 2006.
The Boston-born Israeli, who made Aliya 30 years ago and is also the coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv, led Russia to the European title in his first major tournament with the team in 2007 and guided it to an historic bronze medal in London.
Blatt has since left Russia, but continues to prove his pedigree at Maccabi.
He led the yellow-and-blue to the BSL and State Cup double earlier this year, also lifting the Adriatic League title.
Despite having to overhaul the roster once more ahead of the 2012/13 campaign, Blatt led Maccabi to first place in Euroleague regular season Group B with an 8-2 record, with the team also currently leading the BSL standings with an 8-1 record.
Six years after almost losing his life during the 2006 Lebanon War, Noam Gershony scaled the top of the Paralympic podium in London, winning the gold medal in the Quad wheelchair tennis tournament.
The 29-year-old suffered severe injuries when his Apache helicopter crashed to the ground near Ramot Naftali after a collision with another helicopter.
Gershony and co-pilot Ran Yehoshua Kochva were making their way towards the Lebanese border to assist IDF troops on the ground.
Kochva was killed, while Gershony was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries.
He began a long and arduous recovery process and his crowning moment came with a 6-3, 6-1 win over world No. 1 David Wagner in London, becoming the first Israeli to win a Paralympic gold since 2004.
“I can’t put into words how it felt to hear Hatikva and see the flag at the top of the pole,” said Gershony, who couldn’t stop the tears as the national anthem sounded. “I never thought I would have the chance to represent the country and certainly never believed that I would be able to bring it such honor.”
For some, finishing in sixth position at the Olympics is an achievement of a lifetime. However, for Lee Korzits, it was a bitter disappointed. Korzits finished the women’s windsurfing competition at London 2012 in sixth, dropping from second in the last day of the event in Weymouth. She entered the Games as Israel’s best medal hope after winning two straight World Championship titles, the second of which earlier this year. Korzits lived up to the expectations by maintaining a place in the top three for the first seven days of the competition, only to lose out on the final race.
Nevertheless, Korzits proved once more this year that she is a true sporting inspiration. She overcame two neardeath experiences to reach her second Olympics and revealed after the 2012 Games that a rare blood disorder, from which she has suffered for most of her life, had severely limited her preparations for the Games, also affecting her in the competition itself.
She may not have won the gold medal she was so desperate for, but the past year only helped cement her position as a true champion.
It is hard to overstate Alex Shatilov’s achievements at the London Olympics.
The 25-year-old gymnast may not have won a medal, but he finished the floor final in sixth position after also ending one of the Games’ showcase events, the individual all-around final, in 12th place.
Shatilov showed his strength of character by overcoming knee surgery to claim a bronze medal in the floor final at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Tokyo in 2011, a few months after taking a silver in the same discipline at the Europeans.
Measuring at 1.83-meters, Shatilov towers above almost all of his competitors, and besides the technical quality of his performances, they are also especially aesthetically pleasing.
Shatilov also won his third career medal at the European Championships in May, finishing the floor final in Montpellier, France in third place.
Four years ago, Shatilov became the first Israeli to compete in an individual artistic gymnastics Olympic final, eventually making a mess of his exercise in the floor to finish in eighth position.
He continues to single-handedly carry his sport in Israel, and the fact he was so frustrated with his sensational display in London, just provided further proof of what a great sportsman he is.