Part of gold medal ‘belongs to Israel,’ Kiwi sailor Jo Aleh says


Jo Aleh, the New Zealand Jewish Olympian who won gold in the sailing regatta, said part of her medal “belongs to Israel.”

Aleh, the New Zealand-born daughter of dual Israeli and Kiwi citizens Shuki Shukrun and Daniella Aleh, clinched gold last week in the women’s 470 sailing event with her partner Olivia “Polly” Powrie. Her parents were on hand to witness the triumph.

The new Olympic champion—whose father lives in Moshav Yinon near Kiryat Malachi and whose mother served in the Israeli army—said she was amazed and slightly bemused at the media fanfare in Israel.

“It feels great to know that there is even more people behind me and, given my parents’ background, part of my medal belongs to Israel,” she said.

Aleh’s half-sister Shefa is celebrating her bat mitzvah in two weeks. Aleh, the 2007 world champion, was scheduled to go straight to Israel, but as one of five Kiwi gold medalists she is traveling back for parades in Auckland on Wednesday and the earthquake-ravaged city of Christchurch on Friday.

“I am still hoping to make it back to Israel in time for my sister’s bat mitzvah,” she said.

In New Zealand, it was after midnight Aug. 10 as many in the small Jewish community, which numbers around 7,000, celebrated a slice of their own history: Aleh is believed to be the first Kiwi Jew to win an Olympic medal.

“I was not aware of this,” Aleh said. “I guess it’s a good bonus.”

Shemi Tzur, Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand, said that “This is both an outstanding personal achievement and a great accomplishment for New Zealand. My colleagues at the embassy in Wellington and I followed the competition enthusiastically and we all share your joy and pride.”

New Zealand Jewish sailor in medal contention


New Zealand sailor Jo Aleh is in good position to win her first Olympic medal as her event heads into its final stretch.

Aleh, whose parents Shuki and Daniella Aleh lived in Israel before moving to Auckland, and teammate Olivia Powrie are in second position after six of 10 races in the 470 event. The Kiwis were leading in the early rounds but now trail the British team by a point.

Four rounds remain—two each on Tuesday and Wednesday—followed by a medal race, scheduled for Friday.

Aleh, a former national champion and 2007 world champion, finished seventh at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Her father has flown in from Israel to watch the final rounds and 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 traveling there to celebrate her half-sister’s bat mitzvah.

Aleh says she was inspired to take up sailing after watching the 1995 America’s Cup when New Zealand won sport’s oldest trophy.