Aly Raisman wins third medal at Rio Olympics
RIO DE JANEIRO — American Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman won her third medal of the Rio Olympics on Tuesday — a silver in the floor exercise.
Raisman, 22, of Needham, Massachusetts, was beaten out for the gold by U.S. teammate Simone Biles, who claimed her fourth gold medal here. Biles finished with a score of 15.966 to Raisman’s 15.500.
Biles, 19, had also won in the individual all-around with Raisman finishing second. They combined to help the United States win the women’s team all-around.
Raisman now has six Olympics medals in total; she also won three at the 2012 games in London.
With the floor exercise closing the artistic gymnastics portion of the Rio Olympics, the U.S. women’s gym
nastics team finished with nine medals, well beyond any other country.
In the team competition, Raisman helped the United States finish with a total of 184.897 points to easily outdistance silver medalist Russia, which had 176.688 points. China took the bronze.
It was the second consecutive Olympic team gold for Raisman and the U.S., whose team members nicknamed themselves the “Final Five.” Rio is the last Olympics to have five-member gymnastics teams. Starting in 2020 in Tokyo, each team will have four members.
After the final score was announced Tuesday, the U.S. women huddled together and cheered, led by Raisman, “We are the Final Five!”
Raisman, at 22 the veteran of the group, is nicknamed “Grandma” by teammates Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian. Biles had the top score in the all-around qualifier with Raisman second.
Also late Tuesday, U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky won Olympic gold in the 200-meter freestyle. Ledecky has a Jewish paternal grandmother and lost family members in the Holocaust.
Rio pays tribute to 11 Israeli victims of ’72 Munich Olympic massacre
Under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee, Brazilian senior officials joined sports activists from Israel and elsewhere at a commemoration of the 11 Israeli victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.
The Israeli and Brazilian Olympic committees and members of the local Jewish community attended the event Sunday evening at Rio City Hall.
“What happened in 1972 was one of the most lamentable episodes in the history of the Olympic Games, when fanaticism and intolerance [converged in a] deplorable act of terrorism,” Brazil’s foreign minister, Jose Serra, said on behalf of President Michel Temer. “I believe the IOC, in all these years, hadn’t held the homage it deserved.”
Israel’s most senior representative to the games, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, said terrorism “does not differentiate [between] people” and reaches everyone.
“When we fight against terror, we look for peace. We still see discrimination against the Israeli athletes,” she said. “There are countries that deny visas to competitors. We know that mixing sports and politics is against the IOC protocol and contrary to the Olympic spirit. Sport must bring people together.”
Unlike previous Olympic commemorations dealing with the 1972 massacre, Sunday’s event was entirely devoted to the murdered Israelis. A previous homage was held Aug. 4 at a memorial site in the Olympic Village, where not only the Israelis were honored but also four others who were killed during Olympic Games.
Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, the widows of fencing coach Andre Spitzer and weightlifter Yossef Romano, were among those who lit 11 candles at the event.
Israel’s honorary consul in Rio, Osias Wurman, told JTA: “The mayor opened the doors of his house in a gesture of great friendship with the Brazilian Jewish community and the whole people of Israel. It’s a unique moment for us Brazilian Jews.”
Among the ceremony’s participants was Ori Sasson, the Israeli judoka who gave Israel its second medal in Rio — bronze in the men’s judo over 220 pounds competition. His Egyptian opponent during the competition who refused to greet him after being defeated was much criticized.
Approached by guests and journalists for a comment, Sasson avoided answering questions about conflict in the Middle East.
“It was not the first time this happened between a judo athlete competing against Muslims,” he said, “but I am only an athlete, I’m not a politician.”
Israel’s judo Olympic medalists return home to hero’s welcome
Hundreds of fans showed up at Ben Gurion Airport to welcome home Israel’s Olympic medal-winning judokas.
Entering the arrivals hall at the airport near Tel Aviv Monday night, Yarden Gerbi and Or Sasson were showered with flowers. Supporters waved flags, sang patriotic songs, and held up pictures and posters of the athletes.
“I didn’t expect so much craziness,” Gerbi said, according to the Israeli news site Ynet, which reported that nearly 1,000 people packed the airport.
Gerbi and Sasson both won bronze medals in judo at the Rio Olympics. The medals — which bring Israel’s all-time total to nine, five of them in judo — were a bright spot among disappointing performances and controversy for Israel in Rio.
Gerbi and Sasson have become instant national heroes and helped establish judo as Israel’s unofficial national sport. They were celebrated last week with headlines in the Israeli press and congratulatory phone calls from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
After beating Egypt’s Islam El Shehaby, who refused to shake his hand afterward, Sasson won two more matches before narrowly losing to undefeated French legend Teddy Riner. He then prevailed over Alex Mendoza of Cuba to earn the bronze in the men’s over 100-kilogram category.
Gerbi defeated Miku Tashiru of Japan in the women’s under 63-kilogram category on Aug. 9 to claim her place on the Olympic podium.
After refusing to shake Sasson’s hand, Shehaby was sent home and “strongly condemned’ by the Egyptian Olympic Committee, according to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC said the Egyptian’s behavior “was contrary to the rules of fair play and against the spirit of friendship embodied in the Olympic values.”
Jewish swimmer Anthony Ervin becomes oldest individual swimming gold medalist
Jewish swimmer Anthony Ervin became the oldest Olympic gold medalist in an individual swimming event, at 35 capping a comeback from burnout and drug use in the aftermath of his gold medal at 19.
Ervin edged France’s Florent Manaudou by one one-hundredth of a second in the men’s 50-meter freestyle race Friday night in Rio.
The son of a Jewish mother and a father with black and Native American roots, Ervin won his first Olympic gold medal in the same event in 2000.
“When I touched the wall, I saw a 1. Kind of the absurdity, the surrealness of it all,” Ervin said, according to USA Today. “I smiled and laughed. It just seems so unlikely.”
Ervin, of suburban Los Angeles, won a second gold medal earlier in the week in the men’s 4×100-meter relay.
He had quit swimming in 2003 and, as he details in a memoir published in April (“Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian”), spent his 20s experimenting with drugs, playing guitar and teaching the sport in Brooklyn, New York.
Israel’s second medal in Rio comes again from judo
Ori Sasson of Israel won a bronze medal in the men’s judo over-100 kg. competition.
Sasson gave the Israeli delegation its second medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, both bronze in judo, with his victory over Alex Garcia Mendoza of Cuba last Friday night.
It is the first time Israel has claimed two Olympic medals since 2004.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Sasson by phone on Saturday night from Jerusalem in a call that was aired live on Israel’s Channel 2.
“Every boy and girl saw not only a great athlete but a man with values,” Netanyahu said. “You showed the true face of Israel, its beautiful face.”
In the semifinals, Sasson was beaten by seven-time world champion Teddy Reiner of France, who went on to take the gold medal.
On Aug. 11, Sasson defeated Egypt’s Islam El Shehaby, who refused to shake the Israeli’s outstretched hand and walked away to boos from the crowd. The slight underscored the neighboring countries’ strained relations 37 years after signing a peace agreement.
Two days earlier, Yarden Gerbi won Israel’s first medal in Rio, a bronze in the women’s 63-kg judo competition. It was the first Olympic medal for Israel since 2008 in Beijing.
Nate Ebner, US men’s rugby team eliminated from Olympic medal contention
Nate Ebner, the Jewish NFL player competing for the U.S. Olympic men’s rugby team, came up his short in his bid to help the Olympic squad advance beyond the pool stage in Rio de Janeiro.
With a minute to go in a match against favored Fiji on Wednesday, Ebner ran nearly half the length of the field to score a try — analogous to a touchdown in football. The U.S. needed to lose by four points or less to advance and was down by five.
But teammate Maddison Hughes missed the following conversion kick that would have cut Fiji’s lead to three and the game finished seconds later.
The Americans can finish ninth in Olympic competition with a victory over Spain on Thursday.
Ebner, whose father was the Sunday school principal of Temple Sholom in Springfield, Ohio, is a safety and special teams standout for the NFL’s New England Patriots. Rugby was his first sport, and he joined the U.S. national team at age 17, but he switched to playing football while attending Ohio State University.
He will soon head to training camp to prepare for the football season, but he thought the Olympic tournament was a good advertisement for a sport rarely watched in the United States.
“It’s been awesome. I wouldn’t have done anything differently,” Ebner told The Associated Press. “I can only imagine people who haven’t seen [rugby], it’s got to be exciting to watch.”
The U.S. team’s other Jewish player, Zack Test, also played Wednesday, for three of the game’s 14 minutes.