Rami Zur, a sprint kayaker, was adopted as in infant by a family in northern Israel and grew up on a kibbutz near Lake Kinneret. Zur holds duel citizenship for both Israel and the United States and has competed on behalf of both countries in his Olympic career. He discovered his love of kayaking at age 10 and made his Olympic debut at age 23.
After graduating from high school, he served in the Israel Defense Forces, but continued to participate in competitive kayaking. In the 1999 World Championships, Zur and partner Roei Yellin placed 13th in the K2 500 meter race, finishing sixth in both the K2 200-meter and K2 500-meter races at the 1999 European Championships.
At the 2000 Sydney Games, Zur competed in two events with partner Roei Yellin. They advanced to the semifinals in both races, finishing eighth in their K2 500-meter (1:34.241) heat, and seventh in their K2 1000-meter (3:22.634) heat; they officially placed 15th in both events.
Following the 2000 Olympics, Zur decided to meet his biological mother in California, and also met with U.S. kayaking coaches and decided to begin competing for the United States, which he believed would give him more support and a better opportunity to excel. He expressed pride in his accomplishments for Israel, but decided to take advantage of the bigger sports budgets and better training facilities offered in the United States. This decision paid off in 2002, when Rami represented the United States at the International Kayaking Regatta and won the gold medal in the K1 500-meter, the first gold medal at the regatta to be captured by a U.S. competitor in ten years. At the 2003 World Championships, he finished fourth in the K1 500-meter, missing the bronze by .650 seconds.
At the 2004 Athens Olympics, Zur competed in the K1 500-meter race and was considered a medal contender. Racing in heat 4 on August 24, Rami placed second in his heat (1:40.349), and qualified for the semifinal held on August 26. Despite his high placing, the time was unimpressive as it was the 14th best time among 28 entrants. Zur was unfortunate not to qualify for the final, as he finished fourth in his semifinal (1:40.727). His time was the tenth best overall, while only nine qualify for the final.
The 2008 Beijing Games’ flatwater kayaking contest will mark Zur’s third time in the games, and his second on behalf of the United States.
Sources: Jews In Sports; The Forward (August 8, 2008).