Ten Israelis athletes will represent Israel in four sports at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, February 9-25. Short-track speed skater Vladislav Bykanov, Alpine skier Itamar Biran, skeleton racer Adam (AJ) Edelman, and figure skaters Alexei (Oleksii) Bychenko, Daniel Samohin, Evgeni Krasnopolsky, Paige Conners, Adel Tankova, Ronald Zilberberg and Aimee Buchanan.
Seven of Israel’s 10 representatives will compete in figure skating. That group is anchored by Alexei Bychenko, who in 2016 became the first skater to earn a medal for Israel at a European
Championships event. Bychenko, 29, who skated for Ukraine until 2009 and has been ranked as one of the top 10 male skaters in the world, is likely Israel’s best chance to win a medal (and like US Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman, Bychenko has been known to perform to “Hava Nagila”).
Only three of the 2018 Olympics teammates (Biran, Samohin and Zilberberg) are Israeli by birth. Bychenko, Bykanov, Krasnopolsky and Tankova are Ukrainian natives, while Edelman, Conners and Buchanan were born in the United States.
Edelman took up skeleton racing – where the athlete rides prone on a small sled down a frozen track — only four years ago and is self-coached. He was quoted as saying that whether or not he comes home with a medal, “The most important thing to me is that there will be a lasting image of another Israeli walking behind the flag.”
A few years ago, A.J. Edelman was an MIT graduate who worked as a product manager for Oracle. Now the Brookline, Massachusetts, native will get a chance to make history for Israel as he becomes the country’s first skeleton Olympian next week, steering a flimsy sled down the track at the Pyeongchang Sliding Center.
“I want to challenge the perception of what Jews and Israelis can do in sports,” he told the Forward.
He is also clearly a fan of the comedy film “The Hebrew Hammer,” since he goes by the protagonist’s nickname. While his teammates and friends love it, his mother apparently doesn’t.
Israeli technology will be featured at the Winter Games, too. Thanks to a deal between Intel and the International Olympic Committee, special viewing features will be available from Israeli startup Replay Technologies. Acquired by Intel in 2016, the company uses voxels (pixels with volume) to render replays in spectacular 3D, creating a 360-degree view of key moments. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said these features will allow more people to “experience a prime seat while being anywhere in the world.”
In addition, the Israeli athletes are tailoring their menus individually by using the Israeli Day Two app to keep their blood-glucose levels balanced.