The four athletes who made the shortlist for The Jerusalem Post’s Israeli Sports Personality of the Year come from different fields, but they all have one thing in common.
None of them could have imagined, even in their wildest dreams, how their lives would be transformed over the past 12 months.
All four are first-time candidates meaning there will be a new winner to follow in the footsteps of Paralympic gold medalist Noam Gershony (2012), windsurfer Lee Korzits (2011), tennis player Shahar Pe’er (2007, 2010), basketball star Omri Casspi (2009) and Paralympic swimmer Inbal Pezaro (2008).
The winner will be revealed in the December 27 issue of this newspaper and we are asking you, the readers, to help choose the individual who will be named The Jerusalem Post Israeli Sports Personality of the Year.
Readers can vote until December 26 by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on www.jpost.com (Nominees are introduced by alphabetical order)
One year ago, Yarden Gerbi wasn’t even regarded as the best judoka in her weight class in Israel. The 24-year-old missed out on a place at last summer’s Olympics in London, losing the showdown with Alice Schlesinger to be Israel’s lone representative in the under-63 kilogram competition. However, after winning a bronze medal at the European Championships in April, Gerbi went on to become the first Israeli to claim a gold medal at the judo World Championships in Rio in August, cementing her position as the world No. 1 in the under-63k class.
The 23-year-old finally made her long awaited breakthrough this year. Julia Glushko began the year at No. 170 in the world and will end it at No. 91. She won two ITF tournaments and qualified for Roland Garros, but the highlight of her career to date arrived at the US Open. Glushko reached the third round, coming within a point of the last 16 before losing to Daniela Hantuchova.
It was as recent as last November that Gal Mekel was still without a team. After a season at Benetton Treviso in Italy, the 25-year-old guard decided to take his time and wait for the right offer, even though the season was well underway.
Mekel eventually joined Maccabi Haifa and guided the team to a surprise championship with a win in the BSL final over Maccabi Tel Aviv. However, the highlight of his year would only arrive a month later when he signed a three-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks, becoming just the second Israeli to play in the NBA.
After failing to land a first-team spot at Palermo in Italy, Eran Zahavi decided to return to Israel in January with the aim of resurrecting his career. He has done so in spectacular fashion, inspiring Maccabi Tel Aviv to the Premier League title in 2012/13 before helping it to qualification for the Europa League round of 32 this season.
With a relatively low buy-out clause of a million Euros, it seems all but certain that Zahavi will be back plying his trade on the continent next season, but not before he has guided the yellow- and-blue to another league title.
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