American pole vaulter Jillian Schwartz — who competed for the USA in the 2004 Olympics and won gold in this year’s Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv — has become an Israeli citizen.
Schwartz, 30, aims to compete for Israel in the 2012 Olympics in London.
Schwartz appeared at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, but didn’t reach the final. That same year, she became the fifth American woman to clear 15 feet and placed fourth at the indoor world championships in Hungary.
After winning gold at this past summer’s Maccabiah Games and receiving offers from Israeli athletic officials, the 30-year-old Chicago native decided to become an Israeli citizen.
She said: “It seems Israel is much more supportive of its athletes than the United States, where there are so many who compete at so many different levels.”
Efraim Zinger, secretary-general of the Olympic Committee of Israel said recently that: “Israel may need to pick from the diaspora if it’s to have greater success at the Olympics. If a particular sports federation wants an athlete with Jewish roots we hope they are drawn in by the ‘family sentiment’ of being in Israel.”