Students from Hadassah Neurim's National Youth Center for Athletics won an impressive haul of ten medals including four gold medals at the 68th Israel Athletics Championships in Jerusalem in the summer. This unprecedented success at Israel's premiere track and field event by a student team follows last May's triumph when athletes from the Youth Aliyah residential village swept all the medals at the Israel High Schools Athletics Championships.
On your marks, get set, go: Hadassah Neurim athletes are going for gold
Gold medallists included Yevgeny Minenko, 18, who took first place in the men’s 110 meters hurdles and also holds the Israel national record. His brother Anatoly Minenko won bronze in the discus. Other gold medallists were Yevgenya Zavolatoni, 20, in the women’s hammer and Sivan Zhan in the women's shot put, while Yagur Buzhny took the silver medal in the men's shot put. Sivan Zhan was chosen as the outstanding female competitor in the championships and won a vacation in Paris. Arkady Sklar, the Center's Professional Director, is himself a former Ukrainian athletics champion. He heads a team of six coaches and trainers who have led the Hadassah Neurim students to success after success.
Hadassah Neurim’s students consistently perform well in the World High Schools Athletics Championships finishing seventh in the team event in Morocco and in first place in Turkey last year.
Established in 1997 the National Youth Center for Athletics is supported through Youth Aliyah by the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, Hadassah Chapter in Houston and Keren Hayesod Melbourne Women's Division. The program started out with 18 athletes, all new immigrant runners from Ethiopia and has grown to include 130 athletes today in virtually every track and field discipline including new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union, Ethiopia and native-born Israelis.
"In the 2003/04 school year our athletes won 99 medals in various Israeli championships including 48 gold medals," said Sklar. "That's a big improvement on the previous year when we won 57 medals. This is accomplished through hard sweat and training and enormously high motivation."
Despite the sporting prowess of their charges, Sklar and his trainers insist that all of the Center’s student also devote their time and energy to their academic studies. Many students at Youth Aliyah’s Hadassah Neurim reach the village with a poor academic level and especially low Hebrew language skills. The village has great success in raising the educational achievements of its students including the athletes taking part in the National Youth Center program. The sports students play a full part in both the formal educational activities of the village and the informal extra-curricular programs.
Since 2000 Hadassah Neurim has represented Israel in every major international high school sports events. In July 2003 Sivan Zhan represented Israel in the European Youth Championships. She is the Israeli record holder in the shot put and most recently finished fourth in the World Championships. Now aged 19 she has enlisted in the IDF but continues to train at Hadassah Neurim when at home.
"Individual and team excellence in sport," observed Nachum Katz, Director of Hadassah Neurim, "are part of excellence in general. The trainers, teachers, counselors and management of the village have all contributed to raising these champions. We provide them with great conditions and they do the rest."
Kislev 5765 - November 2004