Sports Personality: Who was Israel’s best of 2017

All five nominees are making their first appearance on the shortlist.

December 22, 2017 00:39
4 minute read.
Sports Personality: Who was Israel’s best of 2017

THE CANDIDATES for The Jerusalem Post Israeli Sports Personality of the Year include (clockwise from top left in alphabetical order) rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram, Hapoel Beersheba owner Alona Barkat, Muay Thai fighter Nili Block, judoka Tal Flicker and tennis player Dudi Sela.. (photo credit: DANNY MARON/OLYMPIC COMMITTEE OF ISRAEL/AYELET/ISRAEL TENNIS ASSOCIATION)


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There is guaranteed to be a first-time winner of The Jerusalem Post’s Israeli Sports Personality of the Year in 2017, with all five nominees making their first appearance on the shortlist.

Despite registering ground-breaking achievements for several years, the likes of Hapoel Beersheba owner Alona Barkat, Muay Thai fighter Nili Block and tennis star Dudi Sela have missed out on a place on the list time and again until this year due to the depth of the competition.

It is a different story for rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram and judoka Tal Flicker, who were virtually anonymous before making remarkable breakthroughs over the past 12 months.

The five nominees are hoping to follow in the footsteps of former winners: tennis player Shahar Pe’er (2007, 2010), Paralympic swimmer Inbal Pezaro (2008), basketball player Omri Casspi (2009), windsurfer Lee Korzits (2011), Paralympic gold medalist Noam Gershony (2012), judoka Yadren Gerbi (2013, 2016), basketball coach David Blatt (2014) and Paralympic rower Moran Samuel (2015).

The winner will be revealed in the December 29 issue of this section 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 27 by email at

(Nominees introduced in alphabetical order)

Linoy Ashram

The 18-year-old capped her sensational year with an historic medal at the World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Pesaro, Italy, in September, taking a bronze in the all-around final. She became the first Israeli to scale the podium in the all-around competition at the Worlds after joining Neta Rivkin as the only Israelis to win a medal in an apparatus final a day earlier.

Ashram won a bronze in the ribbon final.

Ashram’s success in Pesaro came on the back of a summer in which she won two medals at the World Games and dominated the Maccabiah’s rhythmic gymnastics competitions, sweeping all five gold medals.

Ashram also took two medals at the European Championships in Budapest, Hungary, in May.

Alona Barkat

The driving force behind Hapoel Beersheba’s rise over recent years is undoubtedly club owner Alona Barkat. She didn’t only revitalize the once failing club, leading it to a first league title in 40 years and then to another last season. She reinvented it.

Beersheba went from being an under-performing team, playing in a dilapidated stadium with troublesome fans, to being a model club which lives up to the highest expectations, moving into a state-of-theart stadium two years ago and with arguably the best supporters in the country.

For the first time in its history, Beersheba also achieved significant success in Europe last season, reaching the Europa League round-of-32. It was knocked out in the group stage this season, but seems swell placed to continue and achieve history as long as Barkat is at the helm.

Nili Block

Block has been seemingly collecting world titles for fun over recent years. She won her second Muay Thai world championship gold medal this year and is also the two-time defending European champion.

In 2015, she won a gold medal at the kickboxing world championships. Earlier this year, Block also picked up her first career medal at the World Games, an international multi-sport event, meant for sports, or disciplines or events within a sport, that are not contested at the Olympic Games.

She finished the women’s 60kg Muay Thai event in third place in Wroclaw, Poland.

The American-born Block made aliya with her family when she was two years old. At age 10, she was introduced to kickboxing by her mother – then an officer in theBorder Police – who wanted her to learn self-defense.

Tal Flicker

The 25-year-old joined an exclusive list with Israel’s greatest judokas this year when he took a bronze medal at the World Judo Championships in Budapest. Flicker became the seventh Israeli to scale the podium at the Worlds and ends the year ranked No. 2 in the world in the under-66kg category.

Flicker displayed remarkable focus when he put all the distractions aside and claimed the gold medal at the judo Grand Slam in Abu Dhabi two months ago. He was forced to compete under the flag of the International Judo Federation, with the organizers claiming that due to security reasons the Israelis can’t have their flag on their judo uniform and ISR (Israel) by their names on the scoreboard and on their backs. For the same reason, they explained that should an Israeli win a gold medal, the national anthem would not be played, but that didn’t stop Flicker from singing “Hatikva” when he stood at the top of the podium.

Dudi Sela

Despite turning 32 in April, Sela will register his highest year-end ranking in eight years when he finishes 2017 at an impressive No. 67 in the world.

Sela reached one semifinal and two quarterfinals on the ATP Tour this year, while winning two more Challenger Tour titles to take his career tally to 22. He also won at least one match in the three Grand Slam tournaments he played this year, including reaching the third round in Wimbledon by registering one of the biggest victories of his career, defeating American John Isner in a five-set thriller.

However, Sela also made headlines away from the sporting world when he pulled out of his quarterfinal match in Shenzhen, China, as Yom Kippur was about to commence.

He was one set away from reaching his second semifinal of the year when he approached the chair umpire and told him that he needed to retire due to the start of the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

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