Endurance challenge

Susie Dvoskin isn’t letting cancer stop her from participating in the women’s triathlon named in her daughter’s memory.

Susie Dvoskin (photo credit: Courtesy)
Susie Dvoskin
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Susie Dvoskin has tumors growing in her back. Her swollen legs are also a source of pain. But despite battling cancer over recent years, she isn’t looking for any excuses.
The 68-year-old will be participating in the 22nd Israel Women’s Triathlon in Herzliya on May 30. She will be doing only the Popular route rather than the Sprint, but at no stage did Dvoskin even consider not taking part in the event held in memory of her daughter Tamar, who was killed in a hit-and-run accident in August 1996 while training on her bike for that year’s triathlon.
Last year, the US-born Dvoskin had surgery to remove a tumor from her head just two and a half weeks before the triathlon, and she wasn’t allowed to swim, cycle or raise her heart rate. Nevertheless, she took part in the relay event with two friends, who did the swimming and cycling portions before walking with Dvoskin to complete the triathlon.
Dvoskin had long been actively involved in sports, but it wasn’t until 1994 that she took part in her first triathlon.
Her older son Oren was the first in the family to put swimming, cycling and running together, taking part in his first triathlon in August 1994. Tamar was there to cheer him on and during the event picked up a flier for the first women’s triathlon that was to be held later that year.
“She came home with the flier and said, ‘Only with Ima.’ We had a month to train, and we did it,” says Dvoskin.
The women’s triathlon was held in Acre at the time, and Susie and Tamar were two of just 53 participants.
“The champion at the time was eight months pregnant!” she laughs.
The only route at the time consisted of a 500-meter swim, a 16-kilometer bike ride and a 3-km. run on the sand.
“We loved it,” says Dvoskin. “I was worried I might finish in front of Tamar, but she came in one person in front of me.
We crossed the finish line bursting with pride and instantly became addicted to the feeling of pride and achievement.
And that is when our motto was born of ‘Every woman a winner.’ It didn’t matter what place we were in or how much time it took us because we did it. We dared to do something and dared to get to the starting line and from there to the finish line. It was just fabulous.”
Susie and Tamar also took part in the second women’s triathlon, but Tamar was killed while she was training for the third.
“The organizers immediately turned to us because we had developed a nice relationship with them, and they asked us if we wanted the triathlon to be in Tamar’s name,” explains Susie.
“So the third triathlon was already in Tamar’s memory, taking place incidentally on Tamar Beach in Acre.”
The Dvoskins chose to move the triathlon to Herzliya near their home in Ra’anana the following year, while also rescheduling it for the end of May so it would coincide with Tamar’s birthday.
The first women’s triathlon organized by Dvoskin had around 80 participants, with last year’s edition, the 21st overall, including 1,100 women from the ages of eight to 80.
There will be four different routes in this year’s event, with each one also including a relay in which a team of women combine to complete the course.
The Girls route will consist of a 200-meter swim in the Mediterranean along a marked route, with guard boats and buoys, a 4-km. ride on a street closed to traffic, and a one-kilometer run in the area of the Marina.
The Olympic event includes a 1,500-m. swim, 40 kilometers of cycling and a 10-km. run. There are also Sprint (750m swim, 20-km. cycle, 5-km. run) and Popular (500-m. swim, 8-km. cycle, 2.5-km. run) routes, with Susie taking part in the latter.
This year there will also be an event held a day earlier on Friday, branded as Tri-Friday, so that observant Jews will also be able to be part of the triathlon. It will consist of a swim and a run on the same routes that will be used the following day but will not include cycling.
Dvoskin has participated in every one of the triathlons since 1994, either individually or as part of a relay team or a couple.
“There were a couple of years when I wasn’t able to do a full triathlon because I have cancer,” she says. “Six years ago I had my first operation to have a hip replacement because the cancer had eaten away at the bone. Two and a half months after the operation I could swim but couldn’t run or cycle, so I competed in a relay team with my daughter-in-law and niece,” she recounts.
“Once more this year I have tumors growing in my back and causing a lot of pain, and my legs are swollen from a drug I took, so I changed from the Sprint to the Popular distance. But I’m going to do it, of course.”
Dvoskin is an active member at the Conservative Synagogue of Hod Ve’Hadar in Kfar Saba where there is a youth and education center in Tamar’s memory. Dvoskin trains children and adults for bar and bat mitzvas and also tutors youth with mental and physical challenges as a special education teacher.
One of Dvoskin’s favorite parts of the triathlon is to talk about the event with different groups in the hope of encouraging them to take on such sporting endeavors. She held 18 such meetings with different teams and groups of women throughout Israel ahead of this year’s event.
“So many more women are doing triathlons,” she notes. “When we first started organizing these meetings, we had one or two at a sports store and had about 25 women coming, which was wonderful. What has developed in the last four years is that the people who invite me to come and speak about the history of the triathlon and about Tamar and about myself are groups all over the country, some of them are training groups and some of them are women who work together. Teva, for example, has a group of 60 women participating this year. It is wonderful, fascinating and amazing. I love going to talk to these people and encouraging them. A lot of women come just to hear because they haven’t made up their mind, and I’d say that 95 percent of the women end up doing it.”
Nothing seems to keep the effervescent Dvoskin down, and she has become a source of inspiration few others can match.
“The reason I tell my story is not to get sympathy,” she explains. “I tell my story to say that if I can do it, you can do it. If women with cerebral palsy, women who are blind and women with one leg can do it, we can all do it. That is why I tell my story.”
For more details, go to www.women-tri.com