Sinai Says: These athletes’ pleas mustn’t fall on deaf ears

In this day and age it is easy to forget that sports at their best are first and foremost a triumph over personal adversity.

GUY KORACH 311 (photo credit: IDSO Web site)
(photo credit: IDSO Web site)
In this day and age it is easy to forget that sports at their best are first and foremost a triumph over personal adversity.
Fortune and fame may seem to be all professional athletes care about these days, but for so many others, sports means so much more.
Last week I met two young men who typify what sports are all about.
With all the hardship they have encountered at their young age, no one would have blamed Gal Krichman and Guy Korach had they chose to wallow in self-pity.
However, 19-year-old Krichman and 21-year-old Korach chose to do the exact opposite and have overcome their disabilities, serving their country both as basketball players and soldiers.
Krichman and Korach helped the Israel team to fourth position at the Under-21 World Deaf Basketball Championships earlier this month, and despite being exempt from compulsory service, they are both pursuing a dream of becoming IDF officers.
“People don’t understand the importance of contributing to the country,” said Krichman, who currently serves as a computer programmer at the Tzrifin army base.
“Everyone should do their share. People don’t understand that. For me it was always obvious I would join the IDF. There was no other option.”
Korach, who has served at Sde Dov Airport since last summer working on a complex military computer program called Oblivision, echoed his teammate’s sentiment.
“I joined the army to contribute and to be part of the country,” said Korach, who was born deaf.
“It is an honor to be a soldier.”
Both Krichman and Korach draw strength and optimism from their sporting success.
Despite being hearing-impaired, they have both played at National League teams, Israel’s second professional division, proving that they can perform significant roles both on the basketball court and in their army service.
“It’s a little difficult to manage in a team in which everyone else can hear, but the most important thing in the game is to see and to maintain eye contact,” said Krichman, whose hearing has steadily deteriorated since he suffered an allergic reaction to a medicine he was given as a baby.
Krichman and Korach, who also plays for Israel’s senior team, both intend on continuing to represent their country, but considering the meager support Israel gives deaf sports they may well be denied that chance in the future due to financial constraints.
Two years ago, Israel’s national deaf team was left to beg for some NIS 100,000 it needed to travel to the European Championships in Germany. The money was eventually raised and the side finished in sixth position.
This scampering for funds is a recurring theme for the team.
The previous summer each player had to fork out more than NIS 2,000 of his own money to play at the World Championships in China, which the team finished in sixth place.
“The Israel Deaf Sport Organization encounters difficult obstacles because of a lack of awareness and support from sponsors,” IDSO chairman Moshe Ivgy told me on Tuesday.
“We suffer like every other disabled sports body and feel like we need to beg every day for our right to exist.
“The athletes represent the state of Israel and not the just deaf,” added Ivgy, who revealed that the IDSO will only receive NIS 100,000 from the establishment in 2010.
“We fight our disability every day and we also need to pay a price to represent the country. I don’t know how long we will have the strength to continue this way, but we remain hopeful we will eventually be heard.”
The sad truth is that these problems will likely mar the careers of Krichman and Korach for many years to come.
They deserve so much more.