Israel’s Olympic threesome hits Vancouver

Zaretsky ice dance duo and skier Mikhail Renzhin to represent the blue and white.

By BY HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPOST CORRESPONDENT
February 12, 2010 06:39
3 minute read.
Israel's three-person Winter Olympic delegation.

Israel olympic team 311. (photo credit: Courtesy - OCI)

 
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WASHINGTON – While the Vancouver Olympics organizers were trucking in snow from elsewhere in Canada to prepare for Friday’s opening of the 2010 competition, Israel’s ice dancing duo were facing a different kind of snow emergency.

The forecast for New Jersey, where the pair have been training, was for exactly what Vancouver and its nearby ski slopes were lacking: a major blizzard.

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Watching the warnings Tuesday that the massive storm would hit just as they were supposed to leave the next day, coach Galit Chait-Moracci decided to take action. At 5 a.m. she woke her father, Boris Chait, who is heading the Israeli delegation and already in Vancouver, to see what could be done.

Her father soon called back and said he had three tickets for them but they had only a few hours to get to the airport.

“You have to make a decision fast,” he told her.

So she called Sasha and Roman Zaretsky and told them, “Start packing, like now!”

In the end they made it before the first flakes touched down and eventually blanketed the Eastern United States.

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Speaking to The Jerusalem Post by phone from Vancouver, Chait-Moracci said, “We would not have been able to leave Wednesday, for sure. I think it was a good decision.”

In Vancouver, the Zaretskys joined their other Israeli teammate, skier Mikhail Renzhin, and got to work practicing their routine ahead of the three ice-dancing routines – a compulsory, short and long dance – taking place January 19-22.

Renzhin will be competing the slalom and giant slalom events over the course of the next week.

All three competitors are veterans of Turin in 2006, experience which Chait said would help their performance in the 2010 games.

For that reason Chait, who is also president of Israel’s Skating Association, expressed particular frustration that another Israeli skater, Tamar Katz, hadn’t been included on the team by the Israeli Olympic committee. She was faulted for not performing strongly enough in other international competitions and therefore being expected to finish low in the rankings.

“It’s very disappointing. They just don’t understand the spirit of the Olympics,” said Chait, who pointed out competing this year would help her for 2014.

“To me it’s beyond understanding,” he elaborated further. “People who are far away from sports can say they can get experience from other international competitions. But other international competitions are nothing compared to the Olympics, not even close.”

He pointed to “the intensity, the atmosphere with the countries all settled in the Olympic Village, the media interest.”

Chait-Moracci knows that intensity well, having competed in the Olympics herself, and says that’s why it’s been important for the Zaretskys to not do anything other than their normal practices.

“A lot of people can get overexcited,” she said, noting the risk of injury. “You just have to take it the way you usually do.”

The Zaretskys came in seventh in the European Championships and are looking to break the top 10 here. Renzhin’s coach Stanley Rubinstein said he is expected to at least repeat his Turin finish of 32.

Chait-Moracci has gotten caught up in the excitement as well, forgetting at times that she is now a coach rather than an athlete.

“I have to remember I’m not competing – and just relax.”

But that can be difficult.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a coach or a skater. It’s the same feeling – an amazing feeling. Everyone here is such a great athlete. It’s an amazing feeling just to be in the village.”

The transition will be clear, though, on Friday night when it is Sasha Zaretsky rather than Chait-Moracci who carries in the flag. Zaretsky will continue the tradition of a female athlete having that honor.

The blue and white will set to first be hoisted during a flag-raising ceremony involving all the countries on Thursday. That night, the team was to be welcomed at one of several Jewish community events, this one a benefit for Magen David Adom with 900 people expected to attend.

Rubenstein told the Post he was pleased by the support of the Jewish community and the tremendous interest in the Israeli delegation.

“We’re happy to be here and be a part of it,” he said, “and to represent Israel.”

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