Teddy Kaplan, 71, keeps finding new sports to play

When asked how much longer he plans to compete, Kaplan said he doesn't plan on stopping.

teddy kaplan 88 (photo credit: )
teddy kaplan 88
(photo credit: )
Teddy Kaplan is a rare specimen of humankind. He has competed at the top international level in three different disciplines. Kaplan, born in Cape Town, South Africa, 71 years ago, has represented his native country and Israel in track and field, weightlifting and bodybuilding. The Springbok, who competed at the 1966 world weightlifting championships in Berlin, East Germany, has been world weightlifting champion four times and European champion twice. Then, at age 66, Kaplan won the world championships for weightlifting for the 65-69 age group in Athens. He beat out three other contestants with world record lifts of 77.5kg in the snatch and 100 kg. in the clean-and-jerk. In track and field, he holds the records in the 100m, 200m and 400m in the veteran masters category. In 1990, he was crowned the bronze medalist at the European veterans event in the 200m. His biggest disappointment came in 1964 when he was nominated as South Africa's best weightlifter and was selected to represent the country at the Tokyo Olympics. Unfortunately, because of South Africa's apartheid policy, the International Olympic Committee was forced to suspend the country from participating and his "golden opportunity to become an Olympian was lost." Although Kaplan was proud of his athletic achievements in South Africa, he was not content to raise his family there. "I wanted to represent Israel," said Kaplan. "I wanted to bring my wife and five children to Israel and for them to grow up in Israel and not in South Africa." He made the decision to make aliya in 1969 when he represented South Africa at the Maccabiah Games and met the late David Broger. Kaplan said that they both decided to make aliya and represent Israel at the Olympics. At the weightlifting competition, Broger won gold, the late Joseph Romano won silver and Kaplan took the bronze for South Africa. The following year, Kaplan made aliya with his family and one of his goals was to represent Israel at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Once in Israel, Kaplan had to compete against Romano and lost. Romano went to Munich to represent the country. However, Kaplan also traveled to Germany and was fortunate to return to Israel with his life. "I went just to see what was going on over there because Munich isn't very far," said Kaplan. "I stayed with the athletes in the Olympic Village and [the night of the massacre] I wasn't there." Many people remember Munich, but not in the same way that Kaplan does. One of the worst nights in recent Jewish memory backhandedly helped his athletic career. "I was left as number one," said Kaplan. This meant that Kaplan represented Israel at later competitions such as the 1974 Asian Games in Iran. But, it was three years later that Kaplan competed in "one of his main sporting loves": track and field, at the masters competition, age 40 and over, at Tel Aviv University. Following his success at this competition, in 1981 Kaplan traveled to Christchurch, New Zealand, to compete in the world masters track and field championships. He finished seventh in 45-49 age group. Five years later, Kaplan switched disciplines again and competed in the masters world weightlifting championships in Austria. He has continued to stay fit and train over the past two decades, and last year Kaplan competed in his third world masters competition, this time bodybuilding at age 70. The bodybulding category at the competition had two age categories: 40-49, and 50 plus so Kaplan was grouped with competitors 20 years younger than him. Kaplan was the oldest competitor there and didn't rank high in the standings but he sees this competition as very important for himself as well as for Israel. "Before last year in Slovakia at the European championships, I don't know the last time they played Hatikva," said Kaplan. "I am a good sporting ambassador for Israel; achievements in sports bring respect to the country." Kaplan is proud of what he has accomplished but is upset because the government doesn't support him financially. "I have represented Israel in 40 countries and each trip costs me $1,000," said Kaplan. "I always pay my way and that's a lot of money. This is what has dissatisfied me." His training facilities are adequate, though, said Kaplan, in comparison to the conditions in South Africa. "The facilities are good in Israel," said Kaplan. "When I made aliya, I trained with Maccabi Tel Aviv, and it wasn't the best but you just need the weights to do what you need to do." When asked how much longer he plans to compete, Kaplan said he doesn't plan on stopping. "When I go, it's either going to be on the track or swimming pool or on the golf course," said Kaplan. "Until I die, that's when I'm going: cycling, training, enjoying."