Friday, December 14, 2018

Until this week, most of us probably would not have been able to describe the sports relevance of a half pipe. But this week we saw that Arielle Gold’s quest to reach the Olympic podium was more than a pipe dream.

Indeed, the 21-year-old veterinary medicine student from Colorado Springs became the first Jewish Olympian to medal in these winter Olympics, snowboarding her way to a bronze earlier this week in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

We are proud of her, and we cheered out loud even though we don’t know the first thing about snowboarding.

And yes, we had to rub our eyes and refocus when we saw 17-year-old Rochester’s Paige Connors skating as a pair with Evgeni Krasnopolski for Israel. Before this year in South Korea, Israel had sent at most five athletes to a Winter Olympics. This year that number is 10, with seven competing in figure skating. Those skaters also include Alexei Bychenko, a 2016 European championship medalist ranked among the top 10.

Israel even has an Orthodox athlete named A.J. Edelman who calls himself the “Hebrew Hammer” and is a native of Brookline, MA. He’s competing in a sledding sport called…wait for it…the skeleton. We’re not kidding.

And there is even a former National Hockey League player, Jonathan Blum, who is skating for the U.S. hockey team.

So no, Israel is hardly the winter sports capital of the world, but we all remember that it was early last spring when the “feel good” sports story of that season happened, involving a ragtag group of mostly American Jewish baseball players who unexpectedly went deep into the World Baseball Classic tournament, putting a scare into baseball’s power elite.

It was fun then.

This is fun now. Enjoy the games and the Jewish athletes. They give us reason to smile.