The eyes of the sporting world will turn to South Korea next month when the 23rd Winter Olympics take place in Pyeongchang from Feb. 9-25. Over 3,000 athletes from 89 countries will take to the ice, slopes and snow as they compete in 102 events in 15 winter sports.
Jewish and/or cultural-Zionist sports fans the world over will no doubt be searching for Jewish athletes to root for, so here’s a list of Olympians to keep an eye out for as you binge-watch a variety of sports that you probably pay attention to only once every four years. (Check out part two here!)
Jason Brown, Team USA
Jason Brown, a native of Highland Park, Ill., barely missed out on a spot on the USA Figure Skating Team, coming in a disappointing sixth place at the 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships earlier this month, but he will be in South Korea with the team as the first alternate. The 2015 U.S. national champion, Brown came in ninth overall in the 2014 Olympic Games but also won a bronze medal in the team event. More recently, he won a bronze medal at the 2017 U.S. Championships and is ranked No. 9 in the world according to the International Skating Union. Look for Brown’s trademark ponytail when he is on the ice, and also be amazed if and when he skates to music from “Hamilton” in his program. Brown also speaks Japanese, famously skated to “Riverdance” at the 2014 U.S. Championships, and you should probably follow him on Instagram to get the full picture.
Alexei Bychenko, Team Israel
Alexei Bychenko, currently ranked No. 8 in the world, competed for Ukraine as a youth but began to skate for Israel in 2009. At the 2016 European Figure Skating Championships in Bratislava, Bychenko earned a silver medal—Israel’s first-ever medal at the competition. Now living in Hackensack, N.J., Bychenko came in 11th at this year’s European Championships and 10th at the World Championships. And, channeling his inner Aly Raisman, he skates his short program to the music of “Hava Nagila.” Let’s hope it wins him a gold medal as it did for the pride of Needham in London six years ago.
Dylan Moscovitch, Team Canada
Pairs Figure Skating
If you don’t love this guy, you should. Dylan Moscovitch is a Canadian skater and part-time Krav Maga instructor who took a silver medal at Sochi with his erstwhile partner Kristen Moore-Towers and now competes with Liubov Ilyushechkina on the world circuit. At the 2014 Olympics, Moscovitch and Ilyushechkina came in fifth place but garnered silver medals in the team event, and also won silver medals at the 2017 Canadian Figure Skating Championships.
Daniel Samohin, Team Israel
Daniel Samohin was born in Tel Aviv and moved to the United States at a young age, but competes for Israel in world competition. Samohin was the 2016 World Junior champion and is one of the few men to land five quad jumps in a single competition. His fall and separated shoulder in the 2017 Skate America was a setback, but a recent bronze medal at the Minsk-Arena Ice Star in October might be putting him on track for Olympic glory. He is currently ranked No. 20 in the world by the International Skating Union. Relive his 2016 gold medal performance right here.
Vladislav Bykanov, Team Israel
Short Track Speed Skating
Representing Team Israel for the second straight Winter Games will be Vladislav Bykanov, who was born in Lviv, Ukraine, but moved to Israel in 1994. Now a resident of Kiryat Shmona, in 2015 Bykanov grabbed a gold medal in the 3000m event at the European Championships. On a more amusing note, Bykanov’s athletic idol is none other than Eddie the Eagle. Don’t remember him? Yikes, I’m getting old.
Keep an eye out for…
And don’t forget about…
Mikaela Shiffrin, Team USA
A-ca-scuse me? Mikaela Shiffrin is Jewish? Well, no, but her paternal grandfather was, so that counts for me as another reason to root for the eminently likable and talented U.S. slalom racer. Shiffrin is the reigning FIS Alpine Ski World Cup champion (and four-time winner), not to mention the reigning Olympic and FIS Alpine World Ski champion in the event. She will be a heavy gold medal favorite.