Jewish Olympic Medalists at the 2008 Beijing Games

(August 2008)


Jason Lezak followed up his relay heroics with a bronze medal in the 100-meter men’s freestyle. Lezak, whose late dash in the 4 x 100-meter men’s freestyle relay propelled the U.S. team to the gold medal and a world record, finished in a time of 47.67 seconds. He trailed Alain Bernard of France at 47.21 seconds and Australian Eamon Sullivan at 47.32. For Lezak, at 32 the oldest male swimmer to ever qualify for an Olympic team, it was his first individual medal in his third Olympic Games. He had won five relay medals, including three gold. “That’s what’s been driving me the last four years since Athens,” Lezak said when asked how it feels to earn his first individual medal. “It definitely feels good.” Lezak, of Irvine, Calif., had overtaken Bernard in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay. Bernard and Sullivan had exchanged the world record in the semifinals.

Garrett-Weber Gale won his first Olympic medal (Gold) in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay, swimming the second leg after lead-off swimmer Michael Phelps. The winning time: a world-record 3:08.24. Winning margin: eight-hundredths of a second. It was the closest 400-meter relay in Olympic history and the second-closest Olympic relay of any distance.

Dara Torres, 41, became the oldest Olympic swimming medallist when she anchored the U.S. women’s 4x100-metre freestyle relay to a silver medal finish. Eight years after retiring and two years after giving birth, Torres is the first U.S. swimmer to compete at five Olympic Games and oldest woman ever to make the U.S. Olympic swim team. She had three runner-up finishes in all, but was oh-so-close to a gold in the 50-meter freestyle. Ms. Torres received her silver, then hustled back to the locker room to grab her cap and goggles. She anchored the U.S. to a second-place finish in the 4X100 medley relay, unable to catch Libby Trickett on a frantic sprint to the wall.


Sada Jacobson won a fencing silver medal, becoming perhaps the first Jewish medalist of the Beijing Olympics. Jacobson lost 15-8, in the women’s individual saber final Saturday to fellow American Mariel Zagunis, who also won gold at the 2004 Games in Athens. Jacobson, of Dunwoody, Ga., took the bronze four years ago. Jacobson had rallied to defeat Sofiya Velikaya of Russia in the semifinals, 15-11. She had beaten Ukraine’s Olena Khomrova by the same score in the quarterfinals. “There was a new game plan that I was trying and new things,” Jacobson said about her semifinal win. “I was just being a little looser in the second round.” Rebecca Ward defeated Velikaya in the bronze-medal match, giving the Americans a sweep in the event.


Shahar Zubari won the bronze medal at the Neil Pryde finals, Israel’s first medal at the 2008 games, after arriving in second place in the final race. Zubari entered the decisive contest in fourth place overall, with 54 points. This meant that he had to finish at least four places ahead of Ashley or the UK’s Nick Dempsey. Dempsey ended up finishing seventh, five places after the Israeli windsurfer. Zubari began the race quite far behind: Believing he’d leapt early and was risking a penalty, the windsurfer turned around and returned to the start line. This led him to trail behind the other surfers in the first few minutes of the race, but he quickly gained ground.

Sources: JTA (August 14, 2008); JTA (August 10, 2008); The Canadian Press (August 15, 2008); ESPN (August 11, 2008); The Wall Street Journal (August 18, 2008); The Jerusalem Post (August 20, 2008).