Jews & Sports

from Big Mo's Sports Desk

Orthodox Jew Part of the Ten-Man Israeli Team at 2018 Winter Olympics

Compiled and adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from an article by Shiryn Solny in the Algeimeiner [A],
with inserts from an article by Sara Levine on [JiC],
and an older article (Aug. 2015) on Edelman on [TI] by Gregory Gutterman Scruggs.
Photos (one old, one recent) also from Times Of Israel.

[A]: An Orthodox Jewish athlete enthusiastically announced on Wednesday, Jan. 17, his selection to represent Israel in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea for the first time Olympic appearance in his career.

"It is official, Baruch Hashem!" Brookline (a district of Boston, Massachusetts) native Adam "AJ" Edelman wrote on Instagram. The 27-year-old, who has taken up residence in the Jewish state, is Israel's first-ever Olympic athlete in Skeleton, a sport in which competitors take a running leap to lie face-first on a small sled and slide down a frozen 1,372 meter track, with an 116 meter vertical drop throughout, at 130 kph (80 mph) and experience up to 5.5 Gs of force. He is now set to be one of ten members of the Israeli team competing in the 2018 Olympics but the only one in Skeleton.

Edelman grew up playing hockey and, despite receiving scholarship offers to join top prep-schools with hockey teams in Massachusetts, he instead chose to remain at his Orthodox Jewish day-school, Maimonides. After a year of studying at a religious seminary Lev HaTorah Yeshiva in Israel he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a member of the MIT Engineers Hockey team and transitioned to skeleton after graduating college with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2014 and working as a product manager in California for Oracle.

[JiC]: The MIT team created their schedule around Edelman's Shabbos observance and when they couldn't accommodate him, he didn't play. "It was a great lesson in learning to conduct yourself in front of a group of people who had never met a Shabbos-observant Jew, or had never met a Jew to begin with." Edelman had to develop an awareness that it was "important to maintain a consistent level of how I was conducting myself." If a game would end with too-small a buffer before Shabbos, he would sit those out as well.

[A]: The new Olympic athlete revealed that four years ago he was uncertain about which direction to take his career. He said, "I wanted to do something with meaning and impact that would better my community and encourage more Jewish and Israeli participation in sport. I wanted to start a foundation to get more funding to youth athletes, more interest in sport as an outlet, and more pride in being 'Jewish athletes.' I thought the best platform to accomplish this was to represent my homeland on an elite stage, proudly, and with distinction."

Edelman then decided to dedicate the "next chapter" of his life toward representing Israel in the Olympics.

Edelman joined the Israeli team in 2014 and has since won three national titles.

[TI]: "What did your mother say about your ambition to compete in the Olympics in Skeleton?"

AJ: "She had two heart attacks - that I would never get married and never get a job. She agreed though to allow the Israel Olympic Federation to sent me to a training school in Lake Placid, New York, hoping that it would knock some sense into me. Instead, the first time I went down the track, I was addicted."

[JiC]: Edelman says, "There's a lot of emunah (faith) that goes into the whole journey. Before every time I go down a run in competition, I say one of the shir hamaalos ("Song of Ascents" - Psalms 120-134), I think they are appropriate to say as I'm looking at mountains."

[A]: He concluded, "Today that dream, I learned, will become a reality. I will join a fraternity of athletes in Pyeongchang in February, walking behind the flag of the country I love. Am Yisrael Chai!"

Edelman is used to traveling with canned vegetables and smoked salmon, a staple of his diet. "This will be the first time that anything [foodwise] is provided for me. At the Olympic games, Israel will make sure that I am taken care of, all the kosher [food]." In terms of Shabbos, Edelman will light candles and make kiddush for anyone else who wants to join him.



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