Gold medalist Linoy Ashram on her Olympic whirlwind and becomes an Israeli icon


JTA – This summer, Linoy Ashram became the first Israeli to win an Olympic gold medal, in any sport, when she achieved a victory in individual rhythmic gymnastics.

But that wasn’t the only story she made at the Tokyo games.

She became only Israel’s third Olympic gold medalist and the first Israeli rhythmic gymnast to win gold. The Ashram’s victory also shattered a streak of Russian gold medalists dating back to the Sydney 2000 Olympics. (And before the five Russian victories: 1996 and 1992 were won by Ukrainian women and 1988 by a gymnast from the Soviet Union.)

No big deal, right? The 22-year-old returns there with humility.

“I didn’t dream of winning gold,” she told the Jewish Telegraph Agency. “I never thought I could do it – I was hoping for bronze.”

For those who had not followed her triumphs in European tournaments in years, the Ashram’s achievements in Tokyo made her an icon of Israeli sports – a person from a working-class background in the city of Rishon. LeZion, where she grew up training “without infrastructure, without support”, is the new face of Israel’s Olympic success on the world stage.

“It is true that this sport is dominated by people from Eastern Europe,” Ashram said. “The best athletes are from there. When I was little, I never imagined that it would be possible to reach their level because it [felt like] their sport. But as I moved from competition to competition and improved, I started to realize that no matter where [you’re from] or who dominates the sport, I can always win it because of who I am.

“I am very proud of my country and I am proud to represent my country in the best possible way,” she added.

As American gymnastics superstar Simon Biles pointed out with his many mental health-related withdrawals from his competitions this year, not all Olympic competition and fame are fun and light-hearted.

Winning, for the Ashram, was actually “a mixture of feelings.” His family were not allowed to watch his performances due to COVID-19 restrictions. There was stress with happiness – and relief that the competition was over.

Olympic gold medalist Linoy Ashram is greeted by the press, family and friends upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport after winning the rhythmic gymnastics gold medal at the Olympic Games in Japan on August 11, 2021. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)

This is probably in part because his victory was played on the wire, with what his Russian opponents would like to call a controversy.

Ashram narrowly beat her Russian competitor, scoring just 0.15 points more than Dina Averina, prompting the Russian Olympic Committee to call the result “injustice” and submit an official investigation.

The International Gymnastics Federation has rejected any allegation of unfair judgment. But the damage to public relations has been done, and the Ashram has been hit with a wave of criticism and insults online.

She didn’t let the argument affect her.

“I really didn’t care what they said – [my coach and I] were completely focused on winning, ”she said.

Ashram was born in Rishon LeZion, a town about eight kilometers south of Tel Aviv, to a Yemeni Jewish father and a Greek Sephardic Jewish mother.

“I was particularly proud to be able to prove to others that even though this sport [has been] dominated by East Europeans, I could win it and I could bring something new to it. And it is not a given that the athletes of Eastern Europe [win], says the Ashram.

Israeli Linoy Ashram celebrates his victory in the individual all-around final of the rhythmic gymnastics event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake gymnastics center in Tokyo on August 7, 2021 (Lionel Bonaventure / AFP)

Sport – or any other Olympic sport, for that matter – is usually not dominated by a Jew. Ashram showed his Jewish pride by performing his routine for the gold medal in “Hava Nagila”, which will of course go down in history alongside another iconic moment in Jewish gymnastics: the gymnast’s floor routine. Jewish Aly Raisman at the London 2012 Olympics in “Hava Nagila,” for which she also won gold.

Ahead of the 2012 Games, Raisman told the JTA she was proud to use Jewish song “because there isn’t too much of the Jewish elite. [athletes] the low.”

“We brought in ‘Hava Nagila’,” the Ashram said, “because we wanted to bring something Israeli to this year’s Olympics, something Jewish. I know they have used it in the past at the Olympics, and it shows how truly connected we are to the country and we want to bring that Jewish touch to the world.

Rhythmic gymnastics was introduced at the 1984 Olympics. In this sport, gymnasts compete with four different apparatus: hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon. Ashram does not have a favorite among the four; each requires a different style and different music. She enthusiastically described how she and her trainer choose the music for each apparatus: the hoop is “dramatic”, the ribbon is “happy”, the ball is “romantic” and the clubs are “groovy”.

Ashram’s choice for her Tokyo club routine was a mix of Beyoncé and Ciara pop hits, but for the ribbon routine, “Hava Nagila,” a staple of Jewish celebrations everywhere, ticked off the “merry music box. “.

Ashram also praised Raisman’s former teammate Simone Biles and the conversation about athletes and mental health she has energized this year.

“I am happy that she recovered after what happened,” Ashram said. “Athletes also have mental health crises. I’m really happy that she was able to get over that and go back to training and being part of the Olympics – she left in the middle, but then came back for the final exercise, and that shows how strong she is. character . “

Ashram has a calm personality. On her days off – she hasn’t signed up for the next Olympics in Paris in 2024 yet, but she still trains as usual – she enjoys eating her family’s chicken cutlets at home and going at the beach or at the movies.

Although Israel is currently in full sufganiyot mode for Chanukah, it is not a big fan of traditional jelly donuts. Yet she looks forward to the holidays and to be able to enjoy it with all her family.

She always adapts to the public side of being a star athlete. After Hanukkah, she is expected to visit the United States for the first time, as part of the 2021 Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida. This is the first major Jewish organizational gathering to take place in person since the start of the pandemic, and the Ashram is delighted to speak.

Israeli gymnast Linoy Ashram performs in the Rhythmic Gymnastics Individual All-Around Final at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Saturday, August 7, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP / Ashley Landis)

“I am particularly delighted to meet a different kind of audience – not [just] Israelis in Israel. It’s exciting to be able to reach new audiences, ”she said.

Back home in Israel and with her family after the Tokyo Games, she saw – quickly – how her profile had grown dramatically. She received a “hero’s welcome” at Ben-Gurion Airport and called it “truly amazing and moving”. The excitement around her hasn’t slowed down yet.

“On the one hand, it’s really nice because I love getting all this warmth and love from people, and I know people are happy for me,” she said. “On the other hand, I find it difficult to go out in the street [when] people recognize me all the time.

Disbelieving, she recalled a time when she was wearing her face mask and hat – and someone always recognized her.

“My life has definitely changed a bit,” she said.

Source link


About Author

Comments are closed.