Israel will select a maximum of five athletes for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, although the secretary-general of the Olympic Committee of Israel admits that there is “no hope” of the country gaining a medal.
The squad, which flies out to Canada in preparation for the games in early February, will include two figure skaters in the singles competition and a skier, whilst there could also be a involvement in the figure skating pairs if they make the qualification standard.
Efraim Zinger said: “Mikhael Renzin, who has spent the last two years training in the US, is competing in the men’s slalom and giant slalom and will reach the finals at best.”
Zinger, however, is more confident about the chances of Roman and Alexander Zaratski, whom he “expects to reach the final” in the individual figure skating competition.
Israel’s largest party to date was five at the 2006 Torino games. The closest the country came to a medal was sixth in the figure stating in Nagano in 1998.
Zinger believes that Israel may need to pick from the Diaspora if it is to have greater success at the Olympics.
“The different sports federations work with athletes and if they discover their Jewish roots they hope they are drawn in by the ‘family sentiment’ of being in Israel,” he said.
To qualify to represent Israel in the winter or summer Olympics, athletes require Israeli citizenship for a year and must have competed for Israel in a European or World Championship.
“Our budget of $3.5m is from Israeli Betting Association (TOTO), and through raising our own funds, including marketing and projects which enables us to support athletes.
“We can support 65 athletes, depending on results, and 40-45 athletes at London 2012. This could increase if they qualify in football or basketball.”