Olympics: Judoka Yekutieli named OCI sportsman of the year

Receives $10,000 Yoram Oberkowitz memorial award at Beit Hanassi in Jerusalem.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The cream of Israel's sporting community, including many of the athletes who will compete in the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing, congregated at Beit Hanassi in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening to witness the Olympic Committee of Israel's annual sportsman of the year award. Judoka Gal Yekutieli received the $10,000 Yoram Oberkowitz memorial award as sportsman of the year for 2007. It was the first time the ceremony was held at Beit Hanassi, prompting OCI chairman Zvi Varshaviak to express the hope that this was the beginning of a new tradition. Certainly another new tradition was introduced when the OCI also decided to name the coach of the year. The award went to Maccabi Tel Aviv and Israel national team basketball coach Tzvika Scherf who became the first recipient of the $5,000 prize. Cash incentives were also distributed to 23 sportsmen and women including tennis star Shahar Pe'er; and to 27 coaches. Some of those who received incentives have already won silver and bronze medals in international competitions, and 21 athletes have already been selected for the Israeli team, although the OCI has a target figure of 40. Members of the Israeli team will return to Beit Hanassi in six months time on the eve of their departure for Beijing to receive the blessing of President Shimon Peres who will subsequently be cheering them on in China. Peres is one of several Israeli dignitaries who have been invited to attend the Olympics. In his address, Science Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadele declared that he'd been a sports fan since he was a boy and no other ministerial portfolio would have given him as much pleasure as this one because it enabled him to mix frequently with people who bring joy and pride to Israel.