Rambling ...

I'm an Irish Girl, A Dubliner, with the 'Gift of the Gab' ... I like to talk & to tell you things. In Celtic times news, views and comment were carried from place to place by wandering Seanachaí ~ Storytellers ~ who relied on their host's hospitality and appreciation. I will need that from you too, as I venture to share Politics, Poetry, Laughter, Love, Life & everything in-between ... from Bog to Blog!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Golden Girls Part 1 ..... American Olympic Jewesses!!!

Today is the last day of the 2012 Olympic games in London, B"H, and true to my promise I have not watched even one minute of the anti semitic event .... not when Aly Raisman nor Katie Taylor (being Irish!) got Gold.  Inspired by Aly's gutsy stance I decided instead to research for a blog into Jewish Women who have 'Gone for Gold & Glory' over the years.

The undisputed media star of the first week of the 2012 London Olympics was Alexandra “Aly” Raisman, captain of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team.  The talented team won the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo and entered London as the favourites.  On July 31st, with her parents in the stands,  Aly Raisman led the “Fabulous Five,” as the squad was called, to a decisive victory over the once-dominant Russian team and China, the 2008 gold medalists.  Aly started her life as a gymnast at the age of two at a class with her mother, a former high school gymnast. “I always had a lot of energy so it was the perfect fit! I have always loved it ever since!"  The Gold Medalist is set to visit Israel in the coming months.

Pole vaulter
Jillian Schwartz  didn't begin pole vaulting until she entered Duke University in 1997.  She finished 11th in the 2004 games and excelled at national competitions over the next five years. After winning the gold medal in the Maccabian Games in 2009, she became an Israeli citizen. She is competing for Israel at the London games. When asked why she picked the sport, she said, "There are so many factors involved it makes it a lot more fun than just flat-out running or jumping. And I guess there always is a little ~ I don't want to say fear, but it gets your adrenaline going to be that high in the air."

Julie Zetlin 
is the only American competing in rhythmic gymnastics at the 2012 Olympics. The daughter of a Hungarian national champion in the sport,  Zetlin overcame a series of knee injuries to win a wild card berth on the U.S. team.  American Jewish women have made a strong impact on the Olympic Games over the past 100-plus years and in fact most information I was able to find pertained to American Jews.  I suppose this is not surprising as the largest population of Jews outside of ha'Eretz Yisroel is in North America.  It is also an affluent and influential country in sporting endeavour.  As  Rosa Sonneschein noted in the first issue of 'The American Jewess' .... "Not what has happened, but what is recorded makes history." 

Laura Spector made her Olympic debut at the 2010 games in Vancouver, competing in the women's biathlon, a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. The youngest member of the team at 22, Spector placed 77th in the 7.5km sprint and 65th in the 15km individual. Laura Spector is a native of Lenox, MA,  she began cross-country skiing in the eighth grade – which was also the first time she picked up a rifle. Spector did not expect to medal in her first Olympics and has her eyes set on the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia. She balanced training with undergraduate studies in biological sciences and Jewish studies at Dartmouth College, graduating in 2011.

One of the biggest stories of the 2008 Olympics was 41-year-old swimmer Dara Torres (born in Los Angeles, CA 1967). She competed in her first Olympics in 1984, while many of her competitors were the age her own toddler was during this Olympics. The oldest swimmer to compete in the Olympics, she won three silver medals in Beijing, the fifth Olympics of her career.

Fencer Sada Jacobson (born in Dunwoody, GA, 1983), one of the top women competitors in the fencing world, won a bronze medal in saber in Beijing, repeating her performance in the event in Athens in 2004, where the sport made its Olympic debut.  

Marathon Runner
Deena Kastor (born in Waltham, MA, 1973) was the bronze medalist at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, becoming only the second American woman ever to medal in the event

Historically too, American Jewish women take precedence ..... Gold and silver medallist Bobbie Rosenfeld was an outstanding athlete.   She was Canadian .... A celebrated track and field star, she excelled at virtually every sport from tennis to softball to ice hockey. With almost no formal coaching, Rosenfeld shattered national records and starred at the 1928 Olympics, the first year women were allowed to compete in track and field events. As a legendary talent and later as a sports columnist who worked extensively in North America she helped smash traditional barriers to women's participation in athletics.

I just adore her costume ~ I'd so love one!

Known as "Mother of Women's Swimming in America,"  Charlotte Epstein founded the Women's Swimming Association and coached the Women's Olympic Swimming Team in the 1920s. Epstein was born in New York City where she became a court stenographer. In 1917, after she and a few other businesswomen expressed their desire to swim after work for exercise, Epstein formed the Women's Swimming Association to promote the health benefits of the sport. As manager and president of the WSA, Epstein guided many of its members to Olympic victory; she herself was the U.S. Women's Olympic Swimming Team's manager for the 1920, 1924, and 1928 games. Swimmers under her leadership won thirty national championships and set fifty-one world records. In 1935, Epstein chaired the swimming committee in charge of team selection at the second Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv,  the next year, she boycotted the Olympics in Berlin in protest over Nazi policies, B"H.

Lillian Copeland was an Olympic champion in the discus throw. She was born in New York to Minnie Drasnin, a Polish immigrant. After her father died, she was raised by her mother and stepfather Abraham Copeland in Los Angeles. A four-time national champion in shot put, Copeland switched to the discus throw and set a new world record at the 1928 Olympic trials. She was the first woman to win a silver medal for the discus throw and later broke the Olympic and world records to win a gold medal at the 1932 Olympics. She played in the 1935 (Second) World Maccabiah games but boycotted the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. A law school graduate, Copeland joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in 1936 and worked there until her retirement in 1960.

The United States participated in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin ~ the
"Nazi Olympics" ~  (of which I have more to write later in the week!) sending the largest delegation of any country (312 athletes). Not every athlete who qualified for the team chose to go, however. Track and field athletes Milton Green, Norman Cahners, and Lillian Copeland chose not to go. "Syd" Koff, winner of four gold medals at the Maccabean games in 1932, was eligible to compete in the high jump and the broad jump yet decided not to go to Berlin. "Syd" (born Sybil Tabachnikoff), who as a girl had to sneak out of her parents' home to participate in track and field events, thus never won an Olympic medal.

Hoping "to show what a Jew could do" and "to use her talent as a weapon against Nazi ideology," Margaret Lambert (nicknamed Gretel) wanted to compete in the 1936 Olympics for Germany. Though she tied the German high-jump record, she was (as a Jew) not allowed on the team. Lambert emigrated to the United States in 1937. The stadium she was not allowed to enter as an athlete in 1936 was later named for her. In 2009 her record from 1936 was officially restored by the German track and field association, which also requested she be admitted to the German sports hall of fame. That same year, a movie about her life, 'Berlin 36', debuted in German Cinemas.  I am awaiting a copy of this movie and I will review it when I view it!!

As a token gesture to mollify the West, German authorities allowed fencer Helene Mayer to represent Germany in Berlin.  She was not Jewish, but viewed as such by Nazi Criteria.  And tomorrow's blog will feature this lady, who was revulsed by her apparent "Jewishness" and thus does not belong in today's blog offering of Proud Jewish Ladies!!

Aly Raisman's Golden Routine ... Notice the 'Hava Negila' below!!!!!

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