Tough call: Who is Israel’s best sport personality of 2014?

Blatt, Gerbi, Sanford and Zahavi round out finalists for Sports Personality of the Year.

Yarden Gerbi received a hero’s welcome at Ben-Gurion Airport August 31 after winning silver medal at World Judo Championships in Russia (photo credit: REUTERS)
Yarden Gerbi received a hero’s welcome at Ben-Gurion Airport August 31 after winning silver medal at World Judo Championships in Russia
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The four nominees 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.
They all experienced extraordinary years, recording historic sporting achievements.
Last year’s winner, Yarden Gerbi, is among the final candidates yet again, but she will have to overcome stiff competition if she’s to become the first back-to-back winner. Sprinter Donald Sanford is the only first-time nominee, with Maccabi Tel Aviv midfielder Eran Zahavi part of the shortlist for a second straight year while Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt is nominated for the second time in three years.
Sanford, Zahavi and Blatt will be aiming to deny Gerbi her second straight award and follow in the footsteps of former winners Paralympic gold medalist Noam Gershony (2012), windsurfer Lee Korzits (2011), Shahar Pe’er (2007, 2010), Omri Casspi (2009) and Paralympic swimmer Inbal Pezaro (2008).
The winner will be revealed in the December 26 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 24 by email at [email protected] (Nominees introduced in alphabetical order)
David Blatt
It is hard to fathom the year experienced by David Blatt.
This time last year he was in the midst of a 17-game winning streak as Maccabi Tel Aviv coach following a rough start to the season which resulted in rumors suggesting he was one defeat away from being fired.
Blatt ends the year as the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the favorites to win the NBA championship thanks to the return of superstar LeBron James.
After steadying the ship at Maccabi, Blatt led the yellow-and-blue to a remarkable Euroleague triumph. He followed that up by becoming the first coach to make the leap from Europe to an NBA head coaching position, and the Boston native, who moved to Israel over 30 years ago, now has an NBA championship in his sights.
Yarden Gerbi
After becoming the first Israeli to claim a gold medal at the World Judo Championships in Rio in 2013, Yarden Gerbi cemented her place as the country’s best hope for an Olympic medal over the past year.
The 25-year-old came up just short in her attempt to defend her title at the World Championships in August, winning a silver medal in the under-63 kilogram competition after losing to Clarisse Agbegnenou in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Nevertheless, she joined Yael Arad (1991 - bronze, 1993 - silver) as the only Israelis to claim multiple medals at the World Judo Championships. She also went on to win three consecutive Grand Prix events to end the year on a high.
Donald Sanford
Two years after coming tantalizingly close to scaling the podium, Donald Sanford made history when he became the first Israeli to win a medal in a sprint event at the European Athletics Championships.
He finished the 400-meter final in third place in Zurich, Switzerland back in August, breaking the Israeli record for the second time in three days by clocking a time of 45.27 seconds on his way to the bronze medal.
The next target for the 27-yearold California native, who received Israeli citizenship three years ago after marrying Israeli basketball player Danielle Dekel, will be to reach the 400m final at the World Championships next summer.
Eran Zahavi
After inspiring Maccabi Tel Aviv to a second straight Premier League championship in 2013/14, Eran Zahavi has almost singlehandedly kept the yellow-and- blue in this season’s title race with an incredible scoring streak.
Zahavi has scored in 16 straight league matches dating back to last season, with his overall tally over that stretch reaching 24 goals, 15 of them this season.
He also found the back of the net in the Israel national team’s impressive 3-0 win over Bosnia- Herzegovina in Euro 2016 qualification, and despite the Tel Aviv derby brawl he found himself involved in for no fault of his own, 2014 was a memorable year for Zahavi.