Athletics: 15-year old hopes to take Israeli high-jumping to new heights

At a time when most 15-year olds hope to score well on their final exams, Dima Kroytor has one primary goal: to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games. Kroytor, a resident of Tel Aviv who moved from Siberia at age six, holds the Israeli record for the high-jump in his age group at 2.12 meters and came in third this year at the sport's European Junior Championships, competing against jumpers in their twenties. He will also compete in the Israeli Athletic Championships on Wednesday, but does not expect to break any records due to a recent foot injury. "He's not in top-form," said coach Anatoly Shafran. "If he jumps two meters that will be good. We're not ready because of the injury." While Kroytor said he hopes to jump as high as 2.38m soon, Shafran says that his main goal is preparing for the 2012 Olympics. "If I were to imagine the perfect jumper, it would be Dima," said Shafran, who has been coaching high-jumpers for 30 years. "He has the perfect build, he runs well, his personality, everything." Shafran discovered Kroytor three years ago when Kroytor came to try out at his complex for both the long- and high-jump. While Kroytor is talented at both distance and height, he now concentrates on high-jumping. "He wasn't even supposed to compete in the European tournament because you had to be born in '92 or before, but he came in third anyway," said Shafran of Kroytor, who was born in 1993. But Kroytor plans to compete in more international tournaments under the coaching of Shafran, whom he sees every day for practice. "I owe 99 percent of my success to him," said Kroytor of Shafran. "He trains me and teaches me. Without him I wouldn't be able to be here." Shafran also sees importance in his coaching, which he says helps Kroytor both mentally and physically. "First of all I help him psychologically. I help him stay focused, positive, and I make sure he keeps the right things in mind," said Shafran, who added that in addition to the sport, Kroytor often comes to him for help and advice, and that he has become close with Kroytor's family as well. "Of course, I also help him with the physical aspect of the sport." Because of the demands of high-jumping, Kroytor must keep a rigorous practice schedule and has to watch what he eats. Although this lifestyle places restrictions on his social life, Kroytor, who also has an average of 86 at school, says that he enjoys the sport. "I like the feeling of the jump," said Kroytor. "I enjoy every aspect of the sport because I'm succeeding at it." Shafran added that Kroytor's discipline helps keep him away from bad influences in his South Tel Aviv neighborhood. "There are friends of his that are getting involved in fighting and drugs," said Shafran. "He doesn't do any of that because he's here." Kroytor and Shafran also share a bond because both are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Shafran, who moved from Berdichev, Ukraine, said that the high-jumping helps Kroytor fit into Israeli society because of the social and financial benefits it brings. Shafran added that the heritage he shares with Shafran strengthens their relationship. "We share a common language, so we can communicate better," he said. "There are jokes you can tell in Russian that people don't understand in Hebrew." While Kroytor already has precocious skills for his age, Shafran expects him to improve as time goes on. "Hopefully he will be able to take the sport higher and higher," said Shafran