Med student Andi Murez ready to jump into pool for Israel at Worlds

Murez swam at Stanford University on a scholarship as she continued to hone her skills.

By JOSHUA HALICKMAN
July 19, 2019 06:29
Swimming race [Illustrative]

Swimming race [Illustrative]. (photo credit: PIXABAY)

With summer upon us, Israel will be making waves in the pool as the 18th FINA World Championships take place in Gwangju, South Korea. This past week saw the artistic swimming teams, water polo competition and divers all in action while this coming week will feature the swimmers hitting the water in the traditional disciplines.

The blue-and-white has a number of its best at the championships, including Yakov Toumarkin, Jonathan Kopelev, Tomer Frankel and 15-year old sensation Anastasia Gorbenko. However, one of the most fascinating swimmers is American-born Andi Murez, who made aliyah in 2014 and represented Israel at the 2016 Olympic Games.

The six-foot (1.8-meter) Murez, who is now one of the veterans of the group at 27 years old, spoke to The Jerusalem Post about the upcoming World Championships, her swimming background and what lies ahead in the near future.

“My grandfather, Joe Murez, was the reason I started swimming,” said the California native. “He was a member of Hakoach Vienna in Austria in the 1930’s and swam for the club before immigrating to the United States just before the outbreak of World War II. He arrived in New York and then made his way to Los Angeles where he lay down roots for our family.”

“My father, Joe, also swam as a youngster and when I was seven years old, he took me along with my brother to do a lifeguard course. From there, we went to a swimming club and began sharpening our skills in the pool. When I turned 12, I joined Team Santa Monica at the encouragement of a friend and swam with them until I graduated high school in 2009.”

Murez swam at Stanford University on a scholarship as she continued to hone her skills.

“Stanford was a great experience. It was the perfect combination of athletics and academics which pushed me to be the best that I could be.”

While in college, Murez had the opportunity to participate in the Maccabiah Games along with her brother and won five gold medals along with five silvers in a myriad of disciplines.

“We came as a family to Israel and the trip gave me my first taste of what would become part of my future. I competed once again in the 2013 Games and I was approached by one of the Israeli swimmers who said that I should consider moving to Israel and swim here. That gave me a warm and welcoming feeling and planted the seeds of what an amazing opportunity it would be to move to Israel and represent the country.”

After arriving in Israel in 2014, the first competition for Murez was held in Netanya.

“It was a great feeling to hear my name and see the Israeli flags at the pool knowing that I had an entire country behind me.”

The next hurdle was to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and Murez did that in style, becoming the first Israeli woman to punch her ticket to the big show in Brazil.

“I competed in the 50 and 100-meter freestyle, plus I was part of the first Israeli relay team to advance to the 4x100 freestyle at the Olympics.”

Since the 2016 Games, Murez, who majored in Human Biology at Stanford, has been studying in medical school in Israel. However, with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics looming she will now be taking a leave of absence to get ready for the challenges that lie ahead, starting next week at the Worlds in South Korea.

“Since I haven’t been training full time for the last two years I just want to see how fast I can swim and enjoy the competition. I tied my best time in the 50-meter freestyle last month in Rome and I think I can go faster. I’m pretty close to the 25-second mark so it would be very nice to get under that. In addition to the 50, I’ll be competing in the 100 freestyle, the 4x100 free mixed relay, 4x100 medley mixed relay.”

Following the Championships, Murez will be a part of the brand new “International Swimming League” which will begin in the fall with world class athletes, including reigning Olympic champions and world record holders such as American Katie Ledecky.

The ISL will be the first professional sports league for elite swimming and will host a series of US and European-based competitions that culminate in a global championship in Las Vegas.

“The ISL is about creating more exposure to swimming as a sport. The Olympics draw large crowds but in the four years between the Games there isn’t much exposure. The pro league will allow the swimmers to excel and give them financial backing to stay in the sport longer. This will allow athletes the chance to continue as professional swimmers after high school or college.

“Each team will have 12 male and female swimmers from all over the world and it will be a true team-based competition format where swimmers compete for team points. The manager of my club, the Los Angeles Current, will be Olympic gold medalist Lenny Krayzelburg.”

With a full year ahead of just focusing on swimming leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, Murez is thrilled to get back into the pool.

“I’m very excited to be focusing on swimming for the next year. It was quite difficult to combine school and swimming. I never felt like I was succeeding as much as I wanted to in either.

“It also gave me a lot of perspective – both because I learned so much about the human body that I hope to integrate into my swimming, but also because I wasn’t able to swim as much as I wanted to. It now feels like such a treat to be able to concentrate completely on swimming and the opportunity to represent Israel once again at the highest level.”

Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents (www.sportsrabbi.com). Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or feel free to contact the Sports Rabbi via email at sportsrabbi9@gmail.com


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