As the Ledger went to press, U.S. gymnast Alexandra Raisman, 18, had made the all-around individual finals for the U.S. at the London Olympics. The Jewish athlete from Needham, Mass., advanced by performing a routine set to the music of the popular Jewish tune “Hava Nagila.” Raisman’s coaches are Romanians Mihai and Sylvia Brestyan, who had coached the Israeli national team in the early 1990s.
Raisman isn’t the only Jewish athlete on the American team. Others include: Jason Lezak, 36, a swimmer with seven Olympic medals under his belt (including four golds); Soren Thompson (fencing), Merrill Moses (water polo) and Mark Mendelbratt (sailing). Illinois-born Jillian Schwartz, a pole vaulter on the American team at the 2004 Athens Olympics, is representing Israel in London.
At press time, Israeli gymnast Alex Shatilov, 25, had finished his floor exercise in third place during the qualifying round on Saturday, advancing to the finals of that event. In the all-around competition, he placed seventh.