By Harrison Cann
After battling for over a decade to get their shot, Bobsleigh and Skeleton Israel will have the opportunity to make history for its country in 2018.
Since it was founded in 2002, Bobsleigh and Skeleton Israel has been working with the Israeli Olympics Committee (IOC) to get accepted as a program. That request was granted in September of 2016, and now the only thing standing between the team and the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang is qualifiers in North America.
“Now that we are a part of the Olympic program, the only thing keeping us from the games is our own qualification,” David Greaves, President of Bobsleigh and Skeleton Israel, said. “The path is clear, now it’s up to finding an athlete that can do it for us.”
Bobsleigh and Skeleton racing are sledding sports, bobsleigh involving teams of two or four and skeleton having one racer. Time trials at the North American Cup, taking place in cities such as Lake Placid, New York and Whistler, Canada, will determine the participants in the 2018 Olympic Games. Spots will be awarded based on the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) rankings as of Jan. 14.
Greaves said it’s been an ongoing conversation for many years, developing relationships with the IOC and proving they’re a program that can be associated with Israel. After years of growth, it was support from the IBSF that pushed them through.
“The IBSF, which is basically the FIFA of our sport, sent the [IBSF] Vice President to Israel with me to add credibility to our request,” Greaves said. In meeting with the IOC, Greaves said the international support went a long way in proving their legitimacy.
Skeleton racer Bradley Chalupski won Israel’s first medal in an International Sliding Sports competing in the World Championships. He unfortunately won’t be competing in the 2018 Olympic Games after sustaining an injury in training, but Chalupski was still an integral part of getting Israel where they are today.
“There is really no one person or group or moment,” Chalupski said. “It’s a continuum of 15 years of people just never giving up, everybody pitching in in their own way to kind of push this thing across the finish line.”
The biggest achievement for the Bobsleigh and Skeleton Israel is not just the approval by the IOC, but the commitment from the everyone involved. AJ Edelman, who also races skeleton for Israel, said Olympic sports involve much more passion than other professional team sports because you have your country’s name across your chest.
“I think that there’s a lot to say about this sport in particular and those competing in Olympic sports,” Edelman said. “There are degrees of individuals that really care about the countries they’re going for.”
Chalupski is originally from the U.S., but said he embraced his new country in every aspect.
When Chalupski, an alum of this university, opted to race for Israel, he moved to the country, and was able to represent the program in front of the IOC.
Now that the program is approved by the IOC, there is only one goal on their mind.
“My goal is for Israel to win their first medal in bobsled or skeleton, which is attainable over the next decade,” Chalupski said.
For the long-term, the next step for Bobsleigh and Skeleton Israel, Greaves said, is working with young athletes and getting exposure for the sport.