The Jewish Week is always here for you.
We need your support now.
Your contribution will help us bring you vital news
and frequent updates about the impact of COVID-19.
Jewish Athletes Reach Global Stage At Olympic Games

Jewish Athletes Reach Global Stage At Olympic Games

Gymnast Aly Raisman, set to compete in Rio, is part of a rich legacy of Jewish Olympians.

Grandma is going back to the Olympics.

"Grandma" is the affectionate nickname that Aly Raisman, 22, has earned from her four younger teammates on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, who will compete at the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This will be Raisman’s second visit to the Olympics, having competed at the 2012 games in London, where she won two gold medals.

Raisman joins a long line of Jews who have competed and earned their fair share of accolades at the Olympic Games.

German gymnast Alfred Flatow was among the cohort of six Jewish athletes to compete at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. He took home three gold medals in the parallel bars event, and his success at the Olympics earned him an honorary membership in the Union of German Gymnasts. With the rise of Hitler in Germany, Flatow was forced to resign from the Berlin Gymnasts Club. He was subsequently deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where he died at the age of 73.

Another famous Jewish athlete, British track star Harold Abrahams, won a gold medal at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. After his death, Abrahams was the star of Chariots of Fire, a movie about Abrahams' struggle to assert his identity as a Jewish athlete in the face of prejudice.

In the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, windsurfer Gal Fridman won Israel’s first and only Olympic gold medal. First appearing in the Olympic Games in 1952, Israel waited 48 years before taking home a gold.

And who could forget Mark Spitz? Considered the “swiftest swimmer of all time,” Spitz became the first athlete to win seven gold medals in one Olympiad. Spitz raised the bar for the sport of professional swimming and redefined what Jewish athletes were capable of achieving.

Female Jewish athletes have also made their stamp on the Olympic Games. Hungarian gymnast Agnes Keleti won four gold medals at the Melbourne Summer Olympics in 1956, making her the most successful athlete at that year’s games. American gymnast Kerri Strug competed in the 1992 Summer Olympics at the age of 14, where she won a bronze medal. Her defining moment as an athlete, however, came at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where she earned a gold medal for landing an impressive run on the vault despite a third-degree lateral sprain. Check out her impressive performance on the vault below.

read more: