Israel's Olympic athletes briefed ahead of Beijing

The team heard lectures on Chinese culture and was briefed on what to expect when they arrive at the Olympic village in August.

israel olympics 298 (photo credit: AP)
israel olympics 298
(photo credit: AP)
There was an air of anticipation as Israel's Olympic delegation gathered at the Sheraton Moriah hotel in Tel Aviv on Sunday for a two day seminar to prepare for the upcoming Beijing Games. The team heard lectures on Chinese culture and was briefed on what to expect when they arrive at the Olympic village in August. Of Israel's 38 athletes who are currently on their way to China, 23 will be making their Olympic debut. One of those is 22-year-old swimmer Max Jaben, who made Aliya to Israel from the US after competing at the 2005 Maccabiah games. "It was a great experience," Jaben told the Post of the Maccabiah. "I competed well and we also toured all of Israel and I fell in love with the country. The Maccabiah opened the door to me coming to Israel." Jaben booked his place in the Olympics by finishing in 11th position in the 200 meters freestyle race at the European Championships, setting an Israeli record time of 1:49.48 minutes. "Swimming in the Olympics is one of the ultimate achievements for a swimmer," he said. "Growing up I didn't think that I would be swimming for Israel in the Olympics, but now I decided to live here and it became a reality." Of his target at the Olympics, Jaben said: "I want to do a personal best and then see where that puts me. If I can do what I think I can I hope to make the semifinals. This is definitely just the beginning and I hope Beijing will be a good start." The delegation also listened to a panel including former star runner Esther Roth-Shachamarov, basketball legend Tal Brody and ex-Judo star Yael Arad. "I look at you today and I remember myself before the 1992 Barcelona Olympics," said Arad, who won a silver in Barcelona 16 years ago, Israel's first Olympic medal. "To leave the Olympics with a medal," Arad told the athletes, "you need everything to be perfect on the day of the competition. "Everybody in this room has talent and discipline, but not all have the mental toughness to win a medal. Only Olympic success can give you glory, recognition and financial success. To realize this dream you must be mentally strong and never give up." The one doubt for the Olympic team has been sailing duo Udi Gal and Gidi Kliger after Gal failed an internal drug test just over a week ago. On Thursday Gal faced the Israeli Yachting Association disciplinary committee which is expected to reveal whether it will permit the sailor to compete in Beijing in the coming days.