No.5 Esther Roth-Sachamorov

Hurdler Ester Roth-Shachamorov, the first Israeli athlete to reach the finals of an Olympic event, was a natural runner. She began training with coach Amitzur Shapira in 1966 at the age of 14. "The first day we met, he said he was training me for the Olympics," Roth-Shachamorov told the Jerusalem Post. "He didn't even dream that I would be ready for the Olympics in a year and a half." But Roth-Shachamorov proved her coach wrong, qualifying for the 1968 Mexico City Olympics in the 80-meter hurdles. Unfortunately, Shapira arrived late to pick up his young protege on the morning of the race. Without ample time to warm up, she pulled a muscle in her leg during the event, which disabled her from competing for the rest of the year. She came back stronger for the 1972 Munich Olympics and was a top contender for the 100 meter hurdle finals. However, fate again dealt her a cruel hand, when Palestinian terrorists took 11 of her team mates, including her coach, hostage. "The moment helicopters took off with our teammates and the terrorists, the manager and doctor for our delegation turned to me and said, 'Esther, if this is the situation, we want to keep going with the Olympics and we want you to run tomorrow,'" Roth-Shachamorov said. The doctor gave her two sleeping pills, and she dreamt of her coach and winning the next day's race. That night, the nine remaining hostages were killed during a failed rescue mission, and the rest of the Israeli delegation was sent back. "I didn't even care about what I had to do. I lost my coach, and after all, nothing is more valuable than human life. Everything else was secondary," she said. In the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Roth-Shachamorov was the first Israeli to reach an Olympic final when she came sixth in the 100 meter hurdles. She was beaten by five athletes from East Germany and Russia, countries heavily tainted by performance enhancing drugs. Roth-Shachamorov was a versatile athlete, competing in track and field events ranging from 100- and 200-meter sprints to long jump and pentathlon. Her biggest strength, however, was 100-meter hurdles. "I came as a very natural athlete, my coach wasn't even an athletics coach. I don't know how I reached those levels," she said, laughing. She was slated to compete in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, but Israel boycotted the games and she retired soon after. Roth-Sachamorov won five golds and one silver medal at the 1970 and 1974 Asian Games, as well as four gold Maccabiah medals. To this day, she holds the Israeli record for 100 meter sprints, 11.45 seconds set in 1972. Roth-Shachamorov currently teaches physical education at a Ra'anana middle school, and has been getting more media exposure lately because of her high placement on various lists ranking the 60 greatest Israeli athletes. "Today, a student came to me and said, 'You know, I saw you on television and told everyone, 'that's my teacher!'" Roth-Shachamorov said. "So her mother said, 'She was also my teacher!' And the aunt said, 'She was mine too!' It really made me laugh."