October 18, 2018

Aly Raisman: Olympic Coach Knew About Larry Nassar’s Abuse

Victim and Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman speaks at the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, (L) a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 19, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Jewish Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman is claiming that John Geddert, who coached the Olympic team she was on, knew about team doctor Larry Nassar sexually abusing girls on the team in 2011.

Raisman told CNN’s Jake Tapper that one of her teammates explicitly explained how Nassar had abused her while they were in the car with Geddert, but Geddert was silent about it.

“I don’t know what he did or didn’t do from there,” Raisman said. “I know he didn’t ask us any questions, but that is just why we need the full, independent investigation to get to the bottom of who knew about this.”

Geddert has previously issued a statement denying that he knew about Nassar’s actions; he was suspended by USA Gymnastics as part of the fallout from the Nassar case. Geddert is also under investigation, but the details of the investigation are still unknown to the public.

“Mr. Geddert only wishes to convey his heart-felt sympathy to all victims of Larry Nassar’s abuse,” Geddert’s attorney Chris Bergstrom, said in a statement. “Any further comments will distract from the victims’ statements at Nassar’s sentencing.”

Nassar was recently sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexual assault. Over 150 girls, including Raisman, have alleged that Nassar abused them by using his fingers to penetrate them in their genitalia and anus and also touched their breasts. The victims also claim that Nassar was “visibly sexually aroused” during such treatments.

Until he plead guilty, Nassar’s defense was that his actions were part of necessary medical treatment.

Nassar is already serving a 60 year prison sentence after pleading guilty to child pornography.

Nassar’s former employers – the USA Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University –have been accused of ignoring Nassar’s abuse and even pressured Nassar’s victims from speaking out.

Jewish Olympic Medalist Accuses Team Doctor of Sexual Abuse

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A Jewish Olympic medalist is accusing the team doctor of sexually abusing her.

Aly Rai­­­sman, a six-time Olympic medalist, told CBS’ 60 Minutes that she first went to Dr. Larry Nasar, who was a volunteer team doctor for the United States’ gymnastics team, for treatment when she was 15 years old.

Raisman was irked that the USA Gymnastics culture discouraged the girls that Nassar allegedly abused from speaking out sooner.

“I am angry,” said Raisman. “I’m really upset because it’s been — I care a lot, you know, when I see these young girls that come up to me, and they ask for pictures or autographs, whatever it is, I just — I can’t — every time I look at them, every time I see them smiling, I just think — I just want to create change so that they never, ever have to go through this.”

Nassar is facing over a 100 lawsuits from athletes and gymnasts at Michigan State and on the Olympics team for sexually abusing them while claiming it was for treatment. For instance, Nassar allegedly used his fingers to penetrate them as well as grope them by stating that it was treatment. Nassar’s defense is that such methods were legitimate forms of treatment.

McKayla Maroney, one of Raisman’s gymnastics teammates, claimed that Nassar twice abused her by claiming it was “treatment” and referred to one of the instances as “the scariest night of my life.”

The former Olympic doctor is currently in prison for pleading guilty to child pornography.

Aly Raisman is the most famous Jewish athlete, according to ESPN

Aly Raisman celebrates on the podium after winning a silver medal at the Rio Olympic Arena, on Aug. 16, 2016. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Three Olympic gold medals. Six total. Captain of the victorious 2012 and 2016 U.S. women’s gymnastics teams.

Now Aly Raisman can add one more accolade to her list: Most famous Jewish athlete in the world.

Raisman, 23, the two-time U.S. Olympian from Massachusetts, is the only Jew on ESPN’s 2017 list of the 100 most famous athletes worldwide. She sneaked in at number 99, immediately below Aussie golfer Adam Scott (not the guy who plays Ben in “Parks and Rec”), and above Mohamed Salah, an Egyptian soccer player for the Italian team Roma.

Raisman is one of only eight women on the list, which includes her U.S. gymnastics teammate Simone Biles (#48), martial artist Ronda Rousey (#16) and tennis pros Serena Williams (#19) and Maria Sharapova (#23).

Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese soccer icon, topped the list. LeBron James, the basketball superstar now gunning for another NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers, was number two.

Raisman won her first Olympic golds as an 18-year-old in 2012, and won our hearts by performing her first-place floor exercise to the tune of Hava Nagila. Her adorably anxious parents, Lynn and Rick, only added to her Jewish charm.

Raisman took home two golds in 2012 — for the team win and floor exercise — as well as a bronze for the balance beam event. In 2016, she was nicknamed “grandma” for being the team’s oldest member — at 22. But age didn’t stop her. Raisman won three more medals that year: a gold for the team win, and two silvers for all-around and floor exercise.

Raisman will be 26 when the 2020 Olympics kick off in Tokyo, but she’s planning to compete again. If she wins two more medals, for a total of eight, she’ll break the all-time record for U.S. women gymnasts.

ESPN calculated the rankings by looking at endorsement money, social media following and Google search results. Raisman has a paltry $450,000 in endorsement deals (by comparison, LeBron does $55 million in endorsements), but she boasts 2.2 million followers on Instagram and nearly a million on Twitter.

She has also excelled outside of the arena. Raisman placed fourth on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” in 2013, and she can do a mean box jump.

Moving & Shaking: JQ and Kadima galas; LAMOTH student film showcase

From left: The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Board Chair Julie Platt; Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman; Jewish Federation Valley Alliance Chair Jill Namm; and Federation CEO and President Jay Sanderson come together at “It Takes a Woman,” an event for Federation supporters.

JQ International, an organization serving Los Angeles’ LGBTQ Jews, held its annual JQ Awards Garden Brunch May 7 at the Beverly Hills home of Angela and Jamshid Maddahi.

“It was a gorgeous day honoring three amazing role models who inspire each of us with their work advocating for the LGBTQ Jewish community,” JQ International founder and Executive Director Asher Gellis said in an interview.

The outdoor event honored community leader Courtney Mizel with the Community Leadership Award, Hollywood producer Zvi Howard Rosenman (“Father of the Bride,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) with the Trailblazer Award and image therapist Liana Chaouli with the Inspiration Award.

Presenting Mizel with her award, Esther Netter, CEO of the Zimmer Children’s Museum, called Mizel “a human in tune and a LinkedIn site all her own … she is fluid in her thinking and intensely present.”

Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman and Jewish Journal President David Suissa presented Rosenman with the Trailblazer Award.

“I was a gay Jew before there were Jewish queers,” Rosenman said, sharing his story of what it was like growing up gay and Orthodox and how he made a name for himself in Hollywood.

From left: JQ International Assistant Director Arya Marvazy; JQ International honorees Courtney Mizel, Zvi Howard Rosenman and Liana Chaouli; and JQ International Executive Director Asher Gellis supported the LGBTQ community at the JQ Awards Garden Brunch. Photo courtesy of JQ International

Amanda Maddahi, JQ’s director of operations, presented the Inspiration Award to Chaouli, her aunt, after sharing moving remarks about growing up in the very house where the event was held.

JQ provides programs, services and education to Los Angeles’ LGBTQ Jews and allies. Its social programming and support services include the JQ Helpline, JQ Speakers Bureau, Inclusion Consulting and support groups.

“Together,” Gellis said, “we are changing hearts and minds, and making our Jewish community more inclusive for all.”

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

From left: Kadima Day School honorees Avi Kobi, Ami Fridman, Michaela Fridman and Sivan Kobi attend the day school’s annual gala fundraising event.

West Hills-based Kadima Day School’s April 2 gala at the Hyatt Regency Westlake in Westlake Village honored school supporters Michaela and Ami Fridman, and Sivan and Avi Kobi, and recognized longtime educator Sara Goren with the Excellence in Education Award.

Michaela Fridman and Sivan Kobi serve on the executive committee of Kadima Day School as Parent Teacher Organization co-presidents.

Goren is the Hebrew coordinator and a Hebrew and Judaic studies teacher at Kadima.

Attendees included businessman and philanthropist Naty Saidoff, who pledged $50,000 to the school; Shawn Evenhaim, namesake of the school’s Evenhaim Family Campus; and Scott Abrams, district director for U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), in whose district the school is located.

Kadima Day School operates a preschool, elementary school and middle school.

From left: Remember Us Director Samara Hutman; survivor Eva Nathanson; filmmaker Naja Butler and LAMOTH’s Rachel Fidler attended the “Voices of Hope” student film showcase. Photo by Ryan Torok

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) partnered with the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival and Jewish World Watch in holding the April 30 student film showcase “Voices of Hope” at the LAMOTH campus at Pan Pacific Park.

The event featured the screening of 12 student films and immediately followed the Jewish World Watch Walk to End Genocide in Pan Pacific Park.

Attendees included LAMOTH Creative Programs Director Rachel Fidler, who led a panel with the student filmmakers after the screening; Naja Butler, director and star of one of the films, “An American Girl”; Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival Director Hilary Helstein; singer-songwriter, activist and educator Jaclyn Riva Beck; Samrina Vasani, an alumnus of a NewGround program bringing high school-age Jews and Muslims together; and Samara Hutman, director of Remember Us and The Righteous Conversations Project.

The museum received about 500 film submissions from students in sixth through 12th grades around the nation.

The screened films tackled “social justice issues and human stories that matter,” Fidler said in an email. The films addressed issues such as bullying in schools, challenges facing young American Muslims, the subverting of gender stereotypes, and the importance of storytelling in carrying on the memory of the Holocaust.

The gathering, attended by about 30 people, was held in the museum’s upstairs library.

From left: PJTC Rabbi Noam Raucher, U.S. Rep. Judy Chu; Rabbi Marvin Grossman and USC lecturer Peter Braun attended a presentation by Chu at PJTC. Photo courtesy of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center.

The newly formed social justice committee of the Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center (PJTC) kicked off its programming with an April 20 appearance at the synagogue by U.S. Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), whose district includes Pasadena.

PJTC Rabbi Noam Raucher introduced the congresswoman to the approximately 300 temple members in attendance.

After Chu’s opening remarks, Peter Braun, a synagogue member and University of Southern California lecturer in leadership and management, moderated a Q-and-A session with the audience. Discussion topics ranged from Israel to tax policy and health care.

As the event concluded, Rabbi Marvin Gross, a former nonprofit director and chair of PJTC’s social justice committee, presented Chu with a sign reading “Immigrants & Refugees Welcome, We Must Not Stand Idly By … ”

The sign was part of a campaign launched by members of the social justice committee, who distributed 250 signs in Pasadena and the surrounding area.

— Eitan Arom, Staff Writer

At The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ annual “It Takes a Woman” (ITAW) event on May 10, Olympic gold-medal gymnast Alexandra “Aly” Raisman discussed what it meant to represent the United States and the Jewish people in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.

Federation’s Sylvia Weisz Women’s Philanthropy group at the Jewish Federation Valley Alliance organized the event at the Skirball Cultural Center, which drew more than 400 female attendees.

In an onstage interview with Federation President and CEO Jay Sanderson, Raisman discussed her experiences at the two Olympics, the challenges of being a female athlete and how she is now using that experience to teach younger generations about confidence, kindness and positive body image.

Raisman, 22, is a two-time captain of the Olympic gold-medal-winning U.S. women’s gymnastics team and the second most-decorated American female gymnast in the history of the sport. She has earned six Olympic medals, including three gold.

ITAW is focused on introducing women to the work of Federation. Women are the fastest-growing segment of donors within Federation, with gifts made by women in their own names comprising 25 percent of its annual fundraising campaign, according to Federation’s website.

— Esther D. Kustanowitz, Contributing Writer

Moving & Shaking highlights events, honors and simchas. Got a tip? Email ryant@jewishjournal.com.  

Snapshot: The best Jewish Olympic moments

American Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman won her third medal of the Rio Olympics on Tuesday — a silver in the floor exercise.

Raisman, 22, of Needham, Massachusetts, was beaten out for the gold by U.S. teammate Simone Biles, who claimed her fourth gold medal here. Biles finished with a score of 15.966 to Raisman’s 15.500.

Biles, 19, had also won in the individual all-around with Raisman finishing second. They combined to help the United States win the women’s team all-around.

Raisman now has six Olympics medals in total; she also won three at the 2012 games in London.

With the floor exercise closing the artistic gymnastics portion of the Rio Olympics, the U.S. women’s gymnastics team finished with nine medals, well beyond any other country.

Raisman earns sweet redemption in Rio

For American gymnast Aly Raisman, a silver medal in Thursday's all-around event was a moment of redemption after the heartbreak of 2012 when she was on the wrong side of a tiebreak and bumped from the podium.

It was also a validation that a 22-year-old can still rock in the world of gymnastics, despite an army of naysayers who didn't think she could compete in a sport made for teens.

Raisman rose to the podium alongside compatriot and gold medal winner Simone Biles and bronze medallist Aliya Mustafina, the Russian rival that had prevailed in the tiebreak for the bronze in London.

“After the tiebreak of 2012, it was very heartbreaking,” saidRaisman.

But Thursday's silver, she said, “shows you should never let anyone tell you that you can't do anything, and you should never give up just because you fail in something.”

In 2012, Mustafina and Raisman finished with the same total score and the tie was broken by using their three highest apparatus scores. Mustafina came out a hair higher, leavingRaisman in fourth.

Raisman said she had to stare down the skeptics when she came back too the national team in 2014 after a series of injuries. 

“When I first came back, all the media and everyone looked at me like I was crazy that I was really going to come back,” said Raisman. 

Her coach, Mihai Brestyan, told her “'just said ignore everyone,'” she said. “'When you are 21 or 22, that will be your best age.' And he was right.” 

But at the 2015 world championships, she finished a disappointing fifth.

“I wouldn't call fifth in the world a failure,” she said. 

“But sometimes when you make mistakes,” she added, “it's the best thing for you.” 

After their one-two finish Thursday, Raisman and Biles, 19, walked around the Rio Olympic Arena, as if they were one. The two are very close and Raisman said “the whole time we have been here together, that's been our goal to go one-two.”

Biles, who many call the best gymnast of all time, was ebullient about her team mate's accomplishment.

“I was more proud for Aly getting silver than me gold,” Biles said. “She just worked so hard in gym and for it to finally pay off, it amazes me.”

Raisman returned the compliment by saying that she never thought she could beat Biles.

“No one goes in thinking they can beat Simone,” Raismansaid. “People don't go in thinking they can beat Usain Bolt either. It's kind of the same thing.”

The two plan to take a beach vacation in Belize, the homeland of Biles' mother Nellie, and ponder their futures.

“I feel really good at 22 and I can't wait to see what is to come,” Raisman said.

Biles chirped “2020?,” hoping her friend will be coming along for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

Aly Raisman helps power US women’s gymnastics team to Olympic gold

The United States women’s gymnastics team, led by its Jewish-American captain Aly Raisman, won the Olympic gold medal in Rio.

The Americans finished with a total of 184.897 points to easily outdistance silver medalist Russia, which had 176.688 points. China took the bronze.

It was the second consecutive Olympic team gold for Raisman and the U.S., whose team members nicknamed themselves the “Final Five.” Rio is the last Olympics to have five-member gymnastics teams. Starting in 2020 in Tokyo, each team will have four members.

After the final score was announced Tuesday, the U.S. women huddled together and cheered, led by Raisman, “We are the Final Five!”

Raisman, at 22 the veteran of the group, is nicknamed “Grandma” by teammates Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian. Biles had the top score in the all-around qualifier with Raisman second.

Raisman and Biles will compete Thursday in the women’s all-around competition. Biles will also compete in vault, beam and floor exercise, while Raisman will compete on floor, Hernandez on beam, and Kocian and Douglas in uneven bars.

Raisman, of Needham, Massachusetts, won a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics in the floor competition, performing a routine to “Hava Nagila.”

Also Tuesday, U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky won Olympic gold in the 200-meter freestyle. Ledecky has a Jewish maternal grandmother and lost family members in the Holocaust.

Aly Raisman earns spot in individual all-around finals in Rio

Jewish-American woman’s gymnast Aly Raisman earned a spot in the individual all-around competition at the Olympics in Rio.

Raisman took the second spot for the American women ahead of all-around defending gold medalist Gabby Douglas and behind three-time world all-around champion Simone Biles.

The American women’s gymnastics team came in first place in the qualifying for the team finals with a score of  185.238 points, ahead of second place China with a score of 175.279  and third place Russia with 174.620. The finals will take place on Tuesday.

Raisman also will compete in the individual competition in the floor exercise. Raisman won a gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics in the floor competition, performing a routine to “Hava Nagila.”

Raisman, 22, is the U.S. women gymnasts’ team captain, and is nicknamed “Grandma” by her teammates.

2016 Olympics: 7 Jewish American Olympians to watch in Rio

There are athletes, and then there are Olympic athletes. And then there are Jewish Olympic athletes.

When the 2016 Summer Olympics open Friday, we’ll of course be cheering the American athletes — all 555 of them — and we’ll be rooting for Israel, too, which this year is sending its largest ever cohort to Rio.

But we’re saving a special shout-out for some of the Jewish-American Olympians who have given the Tribe extra reasons to be proud this year. (Interestingly, Jews make up about 2 percent of the U.S. population — and by our calculations, they’re represented by nearly the same proportion on Team USA.)

Here are seven Jewish American athletes we’re expecting to make waves in Brazil.

Aly Raisman (Gymnastics)

Aly Raisman competing in the floor exercise at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Trials in San Jose, Calif., July 10, 2016. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

At the 2012 London Olympics, Aly Raisman quite possibly became the most popular Jewish athlete in the world when she won a floor gymnastics gold medal while performing to “Hava Nagila.” She didn’t stop there: Raisman brazenly noted the 40th anniversary of the massacre of 11 Israelis at the 1972 Munich games to reporters after her performance — the International Olympic Committee declined to recognize the killings by Palestinian terrorists.

Alas, four years is an eternity in the gymnastics world. At 22, Raisman is nicknamed “Grandma” by her teammates (not just because of her “advanced” age — she apparently also likes to nap). Nonetheless, the laser-focused star was recently named team captain. We’re rooting for her to make her mark again in Rio.

Nate Ebner (Rugby)

Nate Ebner posing for a portrait at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., July 21, 2016. Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Until a couple of weeks ago, Ebner was “only” known as one of the few Jewish players in the NFL — the 27-year-old special teams ace and safety helped the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl in 2014.

But Ebner will now go down in history as the first-ever NFL player to make a U.S. Olympic team.

After being granted a leave of absence by the Patriots in May to train, Ebner — whose father was the Sunday school principal of Temple Sholom in Springfield, Ohio — made the rugby squad earlier this month.

The leap didn’t appear out of nowhere: Ebner was an All-America rugby player at Ohio State and played for the U.S. National team at 17, the youngest player to do so.

Rugby hasn’t been played in the Olympics since 1924, when the U.S. won a gold medal led by a Jewish player and manager, Samuel Goodman. It will be making a vivid return this year — the only style of the game to be played in Rio will be sevens, a fast-paced version featuring seven players per side and seven-minute halves compared to the typical 15 players and 40-minute halves.

Anthony Ervin (Swimming)

Anthony Ervin preparing for the 50-meter freestyle semifinal at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, Aug. 2, 2013. Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Born to an Ashkenazi Jewish mother and a father with both African-American and Native American heritage, swimmer Anthony Ervin has an interesting identity. He also has an unusual career arc for an Olympian.

After winning a gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2000 Olympics at age 19, Ervin felt burned out. He quit swimming in 2003, and as he details in a memoir published in April (“Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian”), spent his 20s experimenting with drugs, playing guitar and teaching the sport in Brooklyn. He nearly committed suicide by overdosing on the medication he takes for his Tourette syndrome. In an even more symbolic split from swimming, Ervin auctioned off his gold medal for $17,000 and donated the money to the Tsunami Relief Fund.

Remarkably he made a comeback at the 2012 Olympics, placing fifth in the 50-meter freestyle. But he hasn’t stopped there: He called his latest Olympic trials his best ever and qualified for both the 50-meter freestyle and the 4×100 meter freestyle relay in Rio.

Merrill Moses (Water Polo)

Merrill Moses of the U.S. team playing in a match against Russia at the 16th FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, July 27, 2015. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Not many athletes stay in peak shape long enough to participate in an Olympics at 39. But Merrill Moses, a water polo veteran of the 2008 and 2012 Olympics — and now a member of the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame — will do just that when he celebrates his birthday in the middle of the Rio games.

His secret might be his 6-foot-8-inch wingspan — or maybe it’s his confidence.

“I’ve been the best goalkeeper in the United States for 15 years,” Moses told Tribe Magazine last year. “I’ve seen the shots, been in this pressure.”

Moses will likely be in the starting lineup for his third straight Olympics. Here’s hoping the U.S. water polo team will win a gold medal this time; they took home a silver in 2008.

Eli Dershwitz (Fencing)

Eli Dershwitz of the USA celebrating victory over Iran’s Mojtaba Abedini in an FIE Grand Prix match in Seoul, South Korea, March 26, 2016. Photo by Mark Deibert/FIE via Getty Images

Don’t confuse Harvard undergrad Eli Dershwitz with the famous Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz. While the latter is a respected lawyer and author, the former happens to be one of the best fencers in the world.

Dershwitz, 20, of Sherborn, Massachusetts (just a few miles from Aly Raisman’s hometown of Needham), is one of only two U.S. men’s saber fencers heading to Rio. His performance at the fencing World Cup in February helped the U.S. saber team rise to a No. 1 world ranking. Look for Dershwitz, one of the youngest saber fencers in the world’s top 25, to seriously compete for a medal.

Monica Rokhman (Women’s rhythmic gymnastics)

Monica Rokhman. Photo from Instagram

This year marks only the second time that the U.S. women’s rhythmic gymnastics team has qualified for the Olympics; the sport has been contested at the games since 1984. (In 1996, at the Atlanta Games, the squad was an automatic entry because it was representing the host nation.)

A rising star in this rising sport is Monica Rokhman, 19, who grew up near San Diego and is the daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants. Rokhman and her twin sister, Jenny, also a gymnast, have been living in Chicago’s North Shore suburbs to train. Jenny will serve as an alternate for the U.S. team.

In women’s rhythmic gymnastics, five athletes perform routines with props like hoops and ribbons.

Zack Test (Rugby)

Zack Test of Team USA playing at the 2016 Wellington Sevens pool match against France in New Zealand, Jan. 30, 2016. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Remarkably, Nate Ebner isn’t the only Jewish member of the U.S. rugby team heading to Rio — he will be joined by Zack Test, 26, a standout on the men’s sevens roster.

Unlike Ebner, who took time off from the sport for his football career, Test has played eight consecutive years of international competition. The Northern California native and Jewish day school graduate is also one of the best players on the team — he tallied the third most points and second most tackles on the squad during its 2014-15 World Rugby Sevens World Series run.

Aly Raisman earns spot on US Olympic women’s gymnastics team

Jewish-American Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman has been named again to the U.S. women’s Olympics gymnastics team.

Raisman finished third in the Olympic Trials that finished Sunday night in San Jose, California, to capture a spot on the squad that will compete this summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In 2012, she earned two gold medals at the London Olympics: for floor exercise and as part of the team competition.

This year’s team is being touted as the most racially diverse in U.S. history. It includes two African-American gymnasts, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles; a Latina, Laurie Hernandez; Raisman and Madison Kocian.

Raisman posted a photo of the team on her Twitter feed.

At 22, Raisman is the oldest member of the team, which reportedly has earned her the nickname “Grandma.” Raisman and Douglas were both members of the team that won gold in London.

Following the London Olympics, Raisman took time off from competitive gymnastics to take advantage of her newfound fame, performing on tour with her teammates, competing on “Dancing With The Stars” and being a special guest at the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel, the global Jewish sporting event.

Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman has her eye on Rio 2016

Once the music started playing — not the “Hava Nagila” tune that made her the Jewish poster child of the London Games, but something equally folksy — Aly Raisman tumbled right out of bounds. On her first bit of gymnastics at her comeback World Championships here last month, she had quickly incurred a major setback.

This was certainly not how the 21-year-old defending Olympic champion on floor exercise saw the start of her first World Championships in over four years. The competition, after all, comes less than a year before the Olympic Games in Rio, where she hopes to compete, and at a time when she faces her stiffest competition yet — from her U.S. teammate and two-time world champion Simone Biles.

After winning two gold medals in London, including one with the U.S. team, Raisman, then 18, took time off from gymnastics to enjoy opportunities that had come her way — performing on tour with her teammates, competing on “Dancing With The Stars,” being a special guest at the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel, the global Jewish sporting event.

It was a departure for Raisman, who while training is careful about preserving her energy.

“There will be in the times in the summer we’ll go to the Cape, and she’ll be like, ‘It’s going to be too exhausting driving to the Cape. It’s too much. I’m just going to stay home,’” said her mother, Lynn, who raised Raisman in a Reform Jewish home in Needham, Massachusetts. “That year off, everything that came her way she could say ‘yes’ to because she wasn’t training.”

According to Lynn Raisman, a mother of four, her eldest child has always possessed this focus and intensity, even as a young girl.

“I look back at some of those times when we didn’t do things as a family and she stayed home, like, you were so young, you were such a low level. … She just always was like that, very devoted, very regimented with the training,” Lynn said.

According to her mother, Raisman, despite all the fun she was having, decided that she would come back very early into her year off.

“Initially, two weeks later [after the Olympics], she was like, ‘Yeah, I’m done,’” Lynn recalled. But then a couple months later, she told her mother, ‘I want to come back.’”

Raisman took it slow.

Though she resumed training in the fall of 2013, just over a year after her Olympic performances, she didn’t start competing again until this spring, at a friendly meet in Jesolo, Italy, where she won the bronze medal behind two of her U.S. teammates. She won bronze again in the all-around at the U.S. Championships in August.

But these are not the medals she’s after in her comeback. Raisman is chasing the one that got away — a podium position in the Olympics all-around competition, after she was bumped to fourth place in 2012. She thinks about that missing medal “all the time,” Raisman said, and how that Olympic disappointment is motivating her to try to make her second Olympic team. That’s no mean feat in the U.S., which has such a deep bench it could send more than one medal-worthy team to Rio.

Perhaps Raisman simply wanted it too badly in Glasgow. After her disappointing floor exercise, her afternoon went further downhill. There was a botched landing on vault. On the bars, she peeled off on a release move. She appeared to be stunned momentarily as she picked herself up off the mat and remounted the event to finish her routine.

“When you fall at a meet, you just kind of black out,” Raisman said. “It’s the worst feeling. It’s almost traumatizing. I can’t even explain. It’s like the worst feeling in the world.”

Worse still were the results: She did not qualify to make the all-around finals.

But in the team finals in Glasgow, with no individual medal opportunities on the line, Raisman redeemed herself. On beam, the nerves were gone; she moved quickly and aggressively. And on floor, she managed to contain her power and stayed in bounds, helping the U.S. to a five-point victory over China and Great Britain. Raisman and her teammates celebrated on the sidelines, hands clasped and raised in victory after Biles’ floor score was posted. It was a similar scene to the one that played out in London, when the five members of the Olympic team waited for the final mark to make their victory official.

For Raisman, the hardest part of her gymnastics comeback seems to be learning how to control the nervous energy.

“I was just a little too hyper,” Raisman explained.

Physically, despite no longer being a teen, Raisman says she has been able to recoup every skill she had in London. She’s even added new elements to her repertoire.

“I almost feel like I’m stronger than I was last time,” she said.

Aly Raisman, Amar’e Stoudemire to participate in upcoming Maccabiah Games

The 19th Maccabiah Games begin this week. Of the 8,000 athletes from around the world descending on Israel for what some call the “Jewish Olympics,” 1,100 will hail from America.

At the head of the pack is none other than American Jewish gymnast extraordinnaire, Aly Raisman. Another big-name American to look out for at the games, which run July 18-30, is Amar’e Stoudemire. The New York Knicks star surprised fans the first time he traveled to Israel to explore his Jewish roots.  This time the big surprise is that he isn’t representing the United States, but instead will be coaching the Canadian basketball team.

Want to watch but don’t know how? The lovely folks at Haaretz are here to help with this viewing guide. Thanks guys!

Aly Raisman joining ‘Dancing with the Stars’ cast

Aly Raisman, the Jewish gymnast who won three medals at last summer’s London Olympics, is joining the celebrity cast of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

Raisman was among the cast revealed by “Good Morning America” on Tuesday for the show’s 16th season, which begins March 18. Others include former figure skating champion Dorothy Hamill, like Raisman an Olympic gold medalist.

Raisman rose to fame last summer with her gold medal in the floor routine performing to the Jewish classic “Hava Nagila,” and in helping the U.S. women's team take the gold. The Massachusetts native also said she supported a moment of silence for the 11 Israeli Olympians who were killed at the Munich Games in 1972.

On “Dancing with the Stars,” Raisman will be partnered with professional dancer Mark Ballas. Other celebrities slated for the cast include Jacoby Jones, a wide receiver for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens; country singers Wynonna Judd and Kellie Pickler; Zendaya Coleman of the Disney Channel; and  Lisa Vanderpump, star of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”

Adelson, Raisman in top 5 on Forward 50 list of influential Jewish Americans

The Jewish Daily Forward's annual list of the 50 most influential Jewish Americans featured Republican Party mega-donor Sheldon Adelson and Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman in the top 5.

Joining Adelson and the gold-medal winning Raisman in the top 5 of the Forward 50 were composer Philip Glass, TV star Lena Dunham and Agudath Israel of America Executive Vice President Rabbi David Zweibel. The top 5 had video profiles rolled out daily beginning last week.

The full list was published online Monday.  It included Jewish heavyweights in politics and the entertainment industry, but also some more unusual choices.

The most read profile, according to Forward editor Jane Eisen, was of Hindy Poupko Galena, a New York mother who blogged about her baby daughter’s struggle against a fatal disease, prompting an outpouring of support through cyberspace.

The other most popular profiles included Bessie Shemtov, founder of the Friendship Circle, which links volunteers with disabled children and has grown from a single chapter in Detroit to a nationwide movement; and Michael Uram, the Hillel rabbi at the University of Pennsylvania who led a successful response to the first-ever campus conference advocating the controversial BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement against Israel; and Andy Bachman, the rabbi of a Reform congregation in Brooklyn who has led a religious revitalization.

Others featured in the Forward 50 included Open Zion website editor Peter Beinart; scientist Maria Chudnovsky; U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the majority leader in the House of Representatives; New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren; and singer Barbra Streisand.

Eisner noted with pride the increased number of women and girls featured on the list.

Aly Raisman, Munich 11’s David Berger to be inducted into Jewish Sports Hall of Fame

Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Aly Raisman will be inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

Raisman, 18, of Needham, Mass., will be among eight inductees into the hall in Commack, N.Y., in April 2013.

Also to be honored at the 21st annual induction ceremony is weightlifter David Berger, who was among the 11 Israelis killed at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

Raisman won a gold medal in the recently completed London Games on floor exercise with her routine to “Hava Nagila” and helped the United States to the women’s team title. She also earned a bronze on the balance beam.

Other inductees in April include sports photographer Andrew Bernstein; Steve Bilsky, the athletic director at the University of Pennsylvania; Bruce Cohen, a National Lacrosse Hall of Fame member; Randy Grossman, a former tight end for the Pittsburgh Steelers; and U.S. swimmers Marilyn Ramenofsky and Garrett Weber-Gale.

Aly Raisman says she was for Munich 11 moment of silence [SLIDESHOW]

Slideshow highlighting Aly Raisman‘s Olympics at bottom

Jewish-American gymnast Aly Raisman expressed her support for a moment of silence at the Olympics for the Israelis killed at the 1972 Munich Games.

Raisman was speaking to reporters Tuesday following her gold medal performance in the floor exercise.

“Having that floor music wasn’t intentional,” she said of her floor routine to the music of “Hava Nagila,” the New York Post reported Wednesday. “But the fact it was on the 40th anniversary is special, and winning the gold today means a lot to me. If there had been a moment’s silence, I would have supported it and respected it.”

A memorial ceremony for the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches murdered in Munich was held Monday in London, organized by the Israeli Embassy in London and the National Olympic Committee of Israel along with the London Jewish community.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge held a moment of silence for the Israelis at a small ceremony in the Olympic Village late last month, but he said a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies in London would not be appropriate. He spoke at Monday’s memorial.

International politicians and public figures, including President Obama and presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and the governments of several countries had called for an official moment of silence at the London opening.

[Aly Raisman’s results: team / all-around / balance beam / floor exercise]

Aly Raisman, after protest, wins bronze on balance beam

Jewish-American gymnast Aly Raisman won a bronze medal on the balance beam after the U.S. lodged a protest against the original result.

Raisman had finished fourth behind Catalina Ponor of Romania, who fell off the beam in the finals on Tuesday.  Following the Americans’ protest, the rescoring put the two gymnasts in a tie. Under the tie-breaking procedure, Raisman took the bronze with a higher execution score. She had lost a bronze in the all-around on the same tie-breaker.

China took the gold and silver in the event. American Gabby Douglas, who won the all-around, also fell off the apparatus and finished in seventh among the eight competitors.

Raisman, of Needham, Mass., helped Team USA take the women’s team gold on Tuesday—the first Olympic gold medal for the U.S. gymnastics squad since the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Raisman, 18, won the floor exercise while performing her routine to a string-heavy version of “Hava Nagila.”

[For more Olympics coverage, visit jewishjournal.com/olympics]

She will compete later Tuesday in the individual floor exercise event.

Also Tuesday, Israeli windsurfer Lee Korzits had problems in the final and finished in sixth place after entering the medal race in second. She was ninth in the medal round.

Team Israel likely will go home without any medals for the first time since the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona.

Korzits, 28, won world windsurfing titles in 2011 and 2012. She did not qualify to represent Israel at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and considered retiring.

The following year she suffered a near-fatal surfing accident while working on the Professional Windsurfers Association’s tour in Hawaii. She was told by doctors that she would never surf again but she rededicated herself to the sport.

Aly Raisman takes a gold and bronze

Jewish-American gymnast Aly Raisman won a gold medal in the floor exercise as well as a bronze on the balance beam at the London Olympics.

Raisman, 18, of Needham, Mass., took the gold on Aug. 6 with a score of 15.6 to edge Catalina Ponor of Romania and Aliya Mustafina of Russia, the silver and bronze medalists.

Earlier in the day, Raisman won the bronze on the balance beam after the U.S. lodged a protest against the original result. She had finished fourth behind Ponor, who fell off the beam in the finals. After the Americans’ protest, the re-scoring put the two gymnasts in a tie. Under the tie-breaking procedure, Raisman took the bronze with a higher execution score. She had lost a bronze in the all-around on the same tiebreaker.

China took the gold and silver in the event. American Gabby Douglas, who won the all-around, also fell off the apparatus and finished seventh among the eight competitors.

Raisman had helped Team USA take the women’s team gold — the first Olympic gold medal for the U.S. gymnastics squad since the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Raisman won the floor exercise in the team competition while performing her routine to a string-heavy version of “Hava Nagilah.”

Also on Aug. 7, Israeli windsurfer Lee Korzits had problems in the final and finished in sixth place after entering the medal race in second. She was ninth in the medal round.

Team Israel likely will go home without any medals for the first time since the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona.

Korzits, 28, won world windsurfing titles in 2011 and 2012. She did not qualify to represent Israel at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and considered retiring.

The following year she suffered a near-fatal surfing accident while working on the Professional Windsurfers Association’s tour in Hawaii. She was told by doctors that she would never surf again but she rededicated herself to the sport.

Raisman, Down Under athletes soar among Jewish Olympians

Slideshow highlighting Aly Raisman‘s Olympics at bottom

U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman and athletes from Down Under were the story for Jewish sports fans at the London Olympics.

Raisman, who performs her floor routines to the melody of “Hava Nagilah,” won an individual gold medal on Tuesday in the floor exercise as well as a bronze on the balance beam after helping the U.S. women’s team take the gold last week.

Her bronze came after the U.S. lodged a protest against the original result. Raisman, 18, of Needham, Mass., had finished fourth, but the judges agreed to a rescoring, putting her in a tie with Romania’s Catalina Ponor. Under a tie-breaking procedure, Raisman took the medal with a higher execution score. Raisman defeated Ponor again in the floor exercise final.

Meanwhile, there was something good in the water for Jewish athletes from Down Under.

[Aly Raisman’s results: team / all-around / balance beam / floor exercise]

Nathan Cohen, who is Jewish, and his partner Joseph Sullivan won the men’s double sculls on Aug. 2 to give New Zealand its first gold medal of the London Olympics.  They rallied in the last 200 meters to overtake Italy’s Alessio Sartori and Romano Battisti with a time of 6 minutes, 31.67 seconds—1.13 seconds ahead of the Italians.

Australian kayaker Jessica Fox, 18, won a silver medal in the K-1 kayak slalom final. Her first Olympic medal followed a family tradition: Her mother, Myriam Jerusalmi Fox, won a bronze in the same race for France at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Her British father, Richard, finished fourth in the same event at the 1992 Olympics and was appointed coach of the Australian kayak team before the 2000 Sydney Games.

At midweek, New Zealand sailor Jo Aleh was in good position to win her first Olympic medal as her event headed into its final stretch. Aleh, whose parents, Shuki and Daniella, lived in Israel before moving to Auckland, and teammate Olivia Powrie are in first after eight of 10 races in the 470 event.

Two rounds remain—both on Wednesday—followed by a medal race, scheduled for Friday.

Aleh’s father has flown in from Israel to watch the final rounds, while her mother has arrived from New Zealand. Aleh has two half-siblings who both live in Israel, according to a report in The Forward. After the Olympics, the family is reportedly traveling there for her half-sister’s bat mitzvah celebration.

Australian sprinter Steven Solomon’s bid for a medal ended when he ran out of steam in the 400-meter final. Solomon trailed the pack on Monday night, finishing eighth in 45.14 seconds—his second fastest time and just 0.17 seconds off his landmark semifinal time.

The 19-year-old runner, who played soccer at the 2009 Maccabiah before taking up sprinting, heaped praise on his Jewish Ukrainian coach, 78-year-old Fira Dvoskina, who could not travel to London but was coaching him via Skype.

Israeli athletes were not faring well and, for the first time since 1988, seemed likely to return home without a medal.

Windsurfer Lee Korzits, Israel’s likely last hope for a medal, finished the medal race in ninth place, dropping from second place to sixth in the overall rankings. Shahar Tzuberi, the bronze medalist from Beijing, did not qualify for the medal event.

Also, Israeli judoka Arik Zeevi, who predicted he would win a medal at the London Olympics, lost his opening match. Dmitri Peters of Germany put Zeevi in a headlock in their 100 kg. match on Aug. 2, forcing the 35-year-old Israeli to tap out after 43 seconds, the Times of Israel reported. He had tears in his eyes as he left the mat.

Female judoka Alice Schlessinger, another Israeli medal hope, was eliminated early as well.

On Sunday, Israeli gymnast Alex Shatilov finished sixth in the floor exercise finals. Shatilov, 25, had finished 12th last week in the individual all-around final.

In an odd incident, Israeli sprinter Donald Sanford was forced to borrow running shoes, saying his had been stolen and that he did not have the opportunity to warm up. He argued unsuccessfully with the judges for more time and failed to advance out of the first round in the 400 meters, though he did run his personal best time of the season.

Meanwhile, French Olympic swimmer Fabien Gilot grabbed some attention with the Hebrew tattoo on his left arm that he said is a tribute to his late grandmother’s husband, a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz. Gilot, who is not Jewish, said the tattoo is dedicated to his family and honors Max Goldschmidt, who has been a major influence in his life, Ynet reported. The tattoo says, “I’m nothing without them.”

Gilot revealed the tattoo, which is on the inside of his left arm, after exiting the pool following his team’s gold medal-winning performance in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.

Outside the competition, there was news as well. German Olympic rower Nadja Drygalla left the Olympic Village following claims that her boyfriend is a member of an extremist political party inspired by the Nazis. She had already finished competing at the Games as part of the women’s rowing eight team and reportedly left of her own accord after a 90-minute conversation with German officials.

Media reports said her boyfriend was a leading member of a regional National Socialist group, the Rostock National Socialists, and had worked in a state election for the far-right National Democratic Party. Germany’s intelligence agency describes the NDP as racist, anti-Semitic and inspired by the Nazis.

For more Olympics coverage, visit jewishjournal.com/olympics.

Aly Raisman loses bronze in tie-breaker, Gabby Douglas wins gold

Smiling 16-year-old Gabby Douglas took the Olympic Games by storm on Thursday when she won the all-around gold medal ahead of Russian Victoria Komova.

Komova was reduced to tears for the second time in three days when American Douglas pipped her to the title by 0.259 of a point after producing the day’s best performances on the vault and the beam.

Aliya Mustafina, who with Komova was disappointed to take team silver behind the Americans on Tuesday, clung on for bronze despite a fall from the beam. She and Douglas’s compatriot Aly Raisman finished with the same total but the Russian won the medal on the tiebreak rule.

Douglas, dubbed the “Flying Squirrel” for the shape she produces on the bars, was watched from the stands by team mate and world champion Jordyn Wieber, who had come into the Games touted as the favorite for Thursday’s honors but failed to qualify for the final.

[For more Olympics coverage, visit jewishjournal.com/olympics]

Rules and regulations seem to be plaguing the Americans here. Wieber finished fourth in qualifying for the all-around but missed the cut since each nation is allowed only two women in the final. As Douglas and Raisman ranked above her in the preliminaries, Wieber was demoted to the role of spectator at the North Greenwich Arena on Thursday.

Raisman lost out on bronze despite finishing off with the second-best floor routine of the evening under the rule that separates equally-placed contestants by toting up the totals of their three best apparatus.

Douglas, though, was beyond the reach of such concerns, leading from the first of the four rotations when she was the opener on the vault.

A slight hop sideways on landing could have cost her but all her rivals fluffed their landings, with Komova stumbling sideways right off the mat.


Raisman banged her foot on one of the asymmetric bars in the second routine and began to look concerned. Douglas, for all her prowess on the apparatus, was beaten by the two Russians, with Mustafina scoring a high 16.100, but the American stayed in the lead.

With Douglas and the 17-year-old Komova duelling for the gold, their team mates were left to fight for bronze and Mustafina looked to have thrown away her chances when she came off the beam attempting to complete a twisting somersault.

Her score was a low 13.633 and Raisman took to the narrow piece of wood knowing she could take advantage. Her hopes shrivelled, though, when she only just saved herself from overbalancing and then wobbled precariously on a spin and she dropped to fifth place.

Though she recovered with 15.133 on the floor, where she won a world bronze medal last October, it was not enough to put her ahead of 2010 world all-around champion Mustafina.

Komova was last on the floor and Raisman stood with her arm around Douglas as they waited for the giant scoreboard, high above them, to show their fate. Seconds later, only Douglas was celebrating.

As Raisman bit her lip and Komova slumped in a chair and covered her face with both hands, Douglas climbed on to the dais by the vault run-up and waved to the wildly cheering and flag-waving American fans.

Her victory was another feather in the cap of Chinese-born coach Liang Chow who coached another American, Shawn Johnson, to all-around silver and beam gold at the Beijing Olympics four years ago.

Reporting by Clare Fallon; Editing by Pritha Sarkar

Video of American gymnast Aly Raisman’s parents goes viral

[UPDATE: Aly Raisman leads U.S. to gymnastics team gold]

A clip from NBC showing Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman’s parents’ reaction to her uneven bar routine has garnered more than 25,000 hits on YouTube.

The clip shows Raisman’s mother and father commenting on Raisman’s routine from the stands. Her mother, Lynn, says, “Let’s go, let’s go,” and “Come on, come on” while shifting in her seat, and her father, Rick, remains silent until yelling “Stick it, please, stick it!” at the end of Raisman’s routine.

Raisman, 18, of Needham, Mass., is Jewish and has been honored by the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Her performance in the qualifying round in the London Games earned her a spot in the all-around finals on Tuesday.

Aly Raisman leads U.S. to gymnastics team gold [VIDEO]

Aly Raisman, a Jewish American, won the floor exercise in helping the U.S. women’s team to the gold medal in the gymnastics competition at the London Olympics.

The Americans on Tuesday won their first team gold medal in women’s gymnastics since the Atlanta Games in 1996,  finishing with 183.596 points to defeat Russia (178.530) and Romania (176.414).

Raisman, 18, of Needham, Mass., scored 15.300 in the floor exercise to win the event, performing her routine to a string-heavy version of “Hava Nagila” as she did on Sunday. Raisman also had performed to “Hava Nagila” when she gained a berth on the U.S. team last year.

[Related: Video of American gymnast Aly Raisman’s parents goes viral]

Raisman is favored to win the all-around individual competition on Thursday, as well as the floor exercise on Aug. 7, when she also will be competing in the balance beam final. She and Gabby Douglas are representing the U.S. in the individual finals.

Raisman is a recipient of the Pearl D. Mazor Outstanding Female Jewish High School Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award given out by the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in New York.

Aly Raisman, Jason Lezak shine for Team USA

While both took to the podiums in London this week to receive a medal, 18-year-old Aly Raisman’s Olympic star was rising as 36-year-old swimmer Jason Lezak’s appeared to be setting.

Raisman, of Needham, Mass., helped Team USA take the women’s team gold on Tuesday—the first Olympic gold medal for the U.S. gymnastics squad since the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

Also, Raisman is favored to win the all-around individual competition on Thursday, as well as the floor exercise on Aug. 7, when she will be competing in the balance beam final. She and Gabby Douglas are representing the U.S. in the individual finals.

Lezak, a four-time gold medalist likely competing in his last Olympics, helped the American men’s swimming team qualify for the 4×100-meter freestyle swimming finals. The team went on to finish second, receiving a silver medal—Lezak’s eighth medal overall in four Olympics. Lezak did not compete in the finals.

[Related: Aly Raisman leads U.S. to gymnastics team gold]
[Related: Video of Aly Raisman’s parents goes viral]

Meanwhile, the Israeli delegation was experiencing its ups and downs early in the Games.

On Tuesday, two Israeli medal hopefuls were faring well in windsurfing. Lee Korzits was in second place in the women’s eight-day long RS:X event while Shahar Tzuberi was in 10th in the men’s competition.

The Israeli judo team was expected to do well after winning four medals in recent European matches, but judoka Alice Schlesinger was eliminated from competition early this week.

Political differences between Israel and its Arab neighbors came to London when the Lebanese judo team refused to practice next to the Israeli team. The Lebanese even erected a makeshift barrier to split their gym into two halves, according to the Times of Israel.

Meanwhile, even before the start of the Games, Iranian judo athlete Javad Mahjoob withdrew from the competition last week, citing “critical digestive system infection,” according to the Washington Post. That led to widespread speculation that Iran was maintaining a longstanding policy of not allowing its athletes to compete against Israelis.

At the Games, the American swimmers led all the way in the men’s 4×100-meter relay until Yannick Agnel of France pulled ahead of Ryan Lochte in the final lap. France finished first in 3 minutes 9.93 seconds, ahead of the United States (3:10.38) and Russia (3:11.41).

The French turned the tide on the Americans from four years ago in Beijing, when Lezak overtook the French world record-holder Alain Bernard in the final 25 meters despite being nearly a full body length behind him in the stretch. It was the fastest 100-meter freestyle split in history by nearly six-tenths of a second, and earned victory for the U.S. and kept alive Michael Phelps’ drive for a record-setting eight gold medals.

Lezak, though he did not swim in the relay on Sunday night, had helped his teammates Lochte and Phelps qualify in the morning preliminaries.

“The coaches had a tough decision to make with so many talented 100 freestylers and then the two best all-around swimmers in the world,” Lezak told FOXSports.com late Sunday via email. “Of course, I would have liked to be a part of the final. If you asked any of us who swam prelims they would have answered it the same.”

While he has not specifically said he would return for another Summer Games, Lezak, who was inducted into the National Jewish Hall of Fame in 2010, is the oldest member of the U.S. men’s swim team.

“As the body gets older, sometimes the mind wants to go hard for a lot longer. But I’ve learned over the course of the last several years how many laps is enough, how many is too much,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Since his historic comeback at the Beijing Olympics, Lezak has participated in Israel’s Maccabiah Games, winning four gold medals last summer, and taught swimming clinics for neighborhood kids at the Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County in Southern California. He has two children and is an active member of Temple Isaiah in Newport Beach, Calif.

“It’s something for me to get in touch more with Jewish kids and hopefully inspire them,” he said in 2009. “I really didn’t have anyone like that growing up.”

Raisman scored 15.300 in the floor exercise to win the event, performing her routine to a string-heavy version of “Hava Nagila” as she did on Sunday. Raisman also had performed to “Hava Nagila” when she gained a berth on the U.S. team last year.

She is trained by Mihai and Sylvia Brestyan, the Romanian couple who coached the Israeli national team in the early 1990s. The coaches and her mother selected “Hava Nagila” after several exhaustive late-night online searches, they told JTA last year.

She is proud to be using the Jewish song “because there aren’t too many Jewish elites out there,” Raisman told JTA last year. And, she added, “I like how the crowd can clap to it.”

Raisman is a recipient of the Pearl D. Mazor Outstanding Female Jewish High School Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award given out by the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in New York.

Other notable performances of Jewish athletes included U.S. fencer Timothy Morhouse, who lost to Italy’s Diego Occhiuzzi in the quarterfinals.

In tennis, Israel’s Shahar Peer was eliminated by Russia’s Maria Sharapova, one of the top-ranked players in the world. Peer is winless against Sharapova in seven matches.

In men’s gymnastics, Israel’s Alex Shatilov qualified for the finals of the floor exercise after finishing fourth overall. He also qualified for Wednesday’s all-around individual final after finishing 12th overall.

In men’s rowing, David Banks of the U.S. team finished first in the preliminaries and qualified for the finals.

For more Olympics coverage, visit jewishjournal.com/Olympics.