Haile Satayin 370.
(photo credit: IAA website)
The financial crisis in Israeli sports is no secret, but I cannot think of a
more heartbreaking illustration of its day-today implications than the one seen
in Rishon Lezion on Sunday.
Haile Satayin may not be the most decorated
or gifted athlete in Israel, but it is hard to think of a more remarkable
The 57-year-old marathon runner represented Israel at the 2004 and
2008 Olympic Games and remains an active athlete, currently training for
January’s Tiberius marathon in the hope of setting the criteria for the 2013
World Championships in Moscow.
Satayin, who still holds the Israeli
record at 2:14.21 hours, set an impressive time of 2:18.57 hours in Tiberius
last year and will be looking to go two minutes quicker in just over two months
to set the IAAF qualifying standard for Moscow.
However, as astounding as
Satayin’s achievements are, his name reached the headlines in recent days for
far more depressing reasons.
Satayin was spotted working as a steward
during Maccabi Rishon Lezion’s BSL win over Hapoel Eilat on Sunday, revealing
the recent tribulations he has endured.
Satayin recently separated from
his wife, and as he could not afford to rent a place of his own, he has been
living in a warehouse at the Hadar Yosef athletics stadium.
running professionally, until lately Satayin was making ends meet by working as
a coach as part of the Professionalism Project funded by the Culture and Sport
Ministry and the Olympic Committee of Israel.
However, the program ended
on the last day of August and has yet to be extended for the Rio 2016
As a result, Satayin was left without a crucial part of his
income and has resorted to taking menial jobs simply to feed his wife and eight
Obviously, there is absolutely nothing wrong with working as a
steward, but Israeli sports can simply not afford to squander the experience and
knowledge of an inspirational sportsman like Satayin.
Satayin, who claims
he’s 50 even though his passport says he’s 57, made Aliya in 1991, but it wasn’t
until he was fired from his job as a youth running coach in 2002 that he turned
his full focus to his own career and began to record personal success.
surprised everyone by finishing in 32nd position at the European Championships
in Munich in 2002, but his greatest achievement to date came two years later. At
the age of 43 or 49, depending on whom you ask, Satayin ended the Olympic
marathon in Athens in 20th position despite being by far the oldest runner in
the field. He completed the course in a time of 2:17.25 hours, producing one of
his top runs when it mattered most.
One of the most amazing aspects about
Satayin’s career is that he consistently comes up with his very best
performances on the big occasions.
In the World and European
Championships in 2005 and 2006 he once more recorded excellent times and came in
21st and 18th places, respectively.
He was still among the world’s very
best as recent as five years ago, ending the global championships in Osaka,
Japan in 19th place before finishing in a relatively disappointing 69th position
at the Beijing Games.
Satayin just missed out on qualification for London
2012, but he still sees no reason to retire.
Nevertheless, it is hard to
vision him achieving any kind of success if he has to continue to make a living
as a steward and spend his nights in a warehouse.
The Israel Athletics
Association currently receives just NIS 3.7 million a year from the country and
without the extra funding for the Professionalism Project, the likes of Satayin
have been left for dead.
The IAA has got one of its sponsors to fund a
year’s worth of rent for Satayin, but its budgetary constraints mean that the
future of the sport in Israel remains as bleak as ever.
currently stand, keep an eye out for the occasional Olympian when you next visit
a grocery store or a basketball game, you just might bump into one while he or
she are stuffing the shelves or clearing the firstname.lastname@example.org