Golden girls ready for London stage

By Simon Griver, July 9, 2012
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In part two of our focus on the 2012 Olympic Games, we look at some of the top female Israeli athletes who will be looking to raise the bar in London

* Jillian Schwartz
Sport: Pole Vaulting
Date of Birth: September 19, 1979
Born: Evanston, Illinois, US
Honours: 2009 Maccabiah Games gold for Team USA

London will not be Jillian Schwartz’s first Olympics, having competed in the US team at Athens in 2004 - but it will be her first games representing Israel. Born and raised in the US, Schwartz won a sports scholarship to Duke University and in 1999 became the first woman to win an Eastern College Athletic Conference title for the university - setting a record 4.32m. She qualified for the US team in the World Athletic Championships
in 2003, but failed to make the finals, but by finishing fourth in the World Indoor Championships in the spring of 2004, she qualified for the US Olympics team.

However, in Athens she jumped a disappointing 4.30m, well below her personal best of 4.60m. She finished 11th at the 2005 World Athletics Championships. After a lean spell, she returned to form in 2008 with a new personal record of 4.72m, but still failed to make the cut for the US Beijing Olympics team. With the US squad strengthening on the one hand, and a strong Jewish identity on the other hand, Schwartz decided to move to Israel and represent the country in London.

She has twice cleared 4.60m, an Israeli record, and finished 11th in both the World indoor Championships earlier this year with a jump of 4.45m. Schwartz said: “The thought of marching under the Israeli flag in London is very moving.”

* Vered Busquila
Sport: Sailing
Date of Birth: May 23, 1983
Born: Bat Yam
Honours: 2004 World Championships bronze, 2001, 2004 European Championships bronze

Vered Busquila began sailing with Linor Kliger as a teenager in the 420-class with Maccabi Bat Yam and the pair won the World Youth Championships in 1998. Busquila moved up to the 470-class dinghy and began sailing with Nika Kornitzky in 2000. She will be sailing in her third Olympics in the women’s 470-class two person dinghy, although this will be the first time together with new partner Gil Cohen.

In 2004, with Kornitzky, she finished 18th – a disappointment after taking the bronze medal in the World Championships earlier in the year. However, the disappointment was even greater in Beijing when Busquila and Kornitzky finished fourth, narrowly missing out on a medal. The pair announced their retirement and Busquila focused on her studies to become a lawyer, qualifying in the summer of 2010. She immediately announced that she would resume competitive sailing together with a new young partner Gili Cohen.

Although yet to win a medal in a major competition, the duo finished fourth in the World Championships in December 2011 and must be considered contenders for a medal in Weymouth. “I still believe I can win an Olympic medal,” Busquila said. “I’m going to give it everything. We’ve been given all the resources and assistance necessary, which wasn’t always the case in the past. Now it’s up to us to do the job.”

* Alice Schlesinger
Sport: Judo
Date of Birth: May 26, 1988
Born: Herzliya
Honours: 2009 World Championships bronze, 2008, 2009, 2012, European Championships bronze, 2005 Maccabiah Games gold

Alice Schlesinger is determined to come away from London with a medal. She began her judo career in primary school in Herzliya, aged eight, and soon showed prodigious talent. Her English-born mother Nikki, herself an enthusiastic footballer, and father Danny encouraged all of their six children to pursue sports.

By 2004 she was crowned European under-17 champion and later that year she won bronze at the under-17 World Championships. In 2005, at just 17, she won the Maccabiah gold medal beating world champion Daniella Krakova from Argentina. In 2007 she was crowned European under-20 champion. In Beijing she finished a creditable 13th in the under-63kg competition. She had won a bronze medal earlier in the year in the European Championships. Since then Schlesinger has staked her claim to a medal in London by finishing third in the European Championships in 2009, 2010 and earlier this year.

She is currently coached by her partner Pavel Musin. The pair plan to marry next year. Looking ahead to London, Schlesinger said: “The target is a medal and only a medal will be good. Pavel and I have been working very, very hard, trying to improve all the small details that make the difference between winning and losing.”

* Neta Rivkin
Sport: Rhythmic gymnastics
Date of birth: June 19, 1991
Born: Petach Tikvah
Honours: 2011 World Championship bronze (hoops), 2011 European silver (hoops and clubs)

Neta Rivkin was born in Israel several months after her parents immigrated to the country from St. Petersburg. As a small child she loved to run and jump and her father arranged for her to train in rhythmic gymnastics. She began her career aged six and after winning countless international competitions as a child and a teenager, she became the youngest member of Israel’s Olympic delegation to Beijing in 2008, aged just 17. She received a wild card entry as a young talent, even though she had not met the Olympic Committee of Israel qualifying criteria after finishing 14th in the European Championships. She repaid the faith in her by finishing an impressive 14th in the hoops competition.

Rivkin came of age in 2011 - winning the bronze medal in the hoops competition in the World Championships and two silver medals in hoops and clubs at the European Championships.

She said: “For years I have trained for 10 hours every day. But I enjoy it and I often think how many people get to represent their country in the Olympics? I am still young and, of course, I want a medal.”

* Anastasia Gloushkov
Sport: Synchronised swimming
Date of Birth: May 24, 1985
Born: Moscow, Russia

Anastasia Gloushkov has been swimming for as long as she can remember. Both her parents were professional swimmers and when she was six the family emigrated from their native Russia to Greece where he parents became swimming instructors. Three years later the family moved to Israel and settled in Jerusalem, where Gloushkov joined the Maccabi Kiryat Hayovel club.

As a teenager she began focusing on synchronised swimming and finished fourth in the 1998 Youth Olympics. In the 2004 Athens Games, Gloushkov finished 17th along with her partner, Inna Yoffe. In Beijing, Gloushko and Yoffe improved on their previous performance and finished 15th, before going on to finish seventh at the European Championships two years later.

Coached by her mother, Tatiana, Gloushkov studies social sciences at Ben Gurion University of the Negev and lives in the Judean Hills village of Shoresh.

She said: “We always strive for a medal but realistically we’d like to improve on our performance in Beijing.”

Last updated: 9:52am, July 9 2012