Beach volleyball takes its place in the Tel Aviv sun
Karen Glick is one of the outstanding players on the Israeli beach volleyball team which is participating in the European championships that started this week in Tel Aviv.
On Monday, as temperatures in Tel Aviv soar past 30 degrees Celsius and air conditioners in cars, offices and homes work overtime, Karen Glick comes to Gordon Beach, fresh and energized. The heat index doesn't stop the tall young blond from showing up at one of the most broiling places in town and starting to train.
Glick, almost 18, is one of the outstanding players on the Israeli beach volleyball team. The team is participating in the European championships, which started Wednesday in Tel Aviv. She is competing on the sand with the rest of her team, which consists of two pairs of young men and two pairs of young women. This year, teams from 24 countries are participating and the public is invited to watch for free at Gordon Beach.
This is Glick's second year on the team; her partner is Yael Lotan, 18, from Or Yehuda. Last year, they came in 13th at the championship held in Portugal. This year, she says, they have received considerable assistance from Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, who has encouraged the beach volleyball players from abroad to get familiar with the city's nightlife ("So you will be tired and we'll be able to beat you").
Glick got her European looks from her parents, who immigrated to Israel from Hungary. Her romance with beach volleyball began by chance, when she was 12 years old.
"Somebody saw me at school, noticed that I'm tall - 1.80 meter - and invited me to the Wingate Institute to see the volleyball team," she recalls. "I fell in love with this sport and I decided to go there."
For the past five years she has been enrolled there, but in the last two years she decided to leave the indoor court from time to time and go play with the beach team.
"I love the atmosphere outdoors, I love that the games are played in pairs and I love my partner, Yael," Glick says. "I know she will invest a lot of energy for me and I will for her, as well."
Lotan nods: "We get the best out of each other," she says.
During the past three months, the two have been devoting all their time to training for the championship - twice a day, six hours at a time. Only on Sundays are they allowed to rest.
"It's really hot here, but we've become used to it," says Glick. "In the first month I was gasping after every practice and had to drink every 10 seconds, but you can play with this. You get used to it."
In the final days before the championship, the two competitors took part in an international training camp with teams from Germany, Austria, Russia and Norway.
"This dispelled the myth of the 2.10-meter-tall Germans who come onto the court and can't be stopped," Lotan explains. "It reduced some of the pressure and showed us that, all in all, they are people our age, human beings, and they too make mistakes."
This also calmed Glick down somewhat. "The rival girls don't look all that strong and certainly not unbeatable. We can play against them and win," she says.
She will do her military service as an outstanding athlete and will be able to continue to train. Her ambition is to advance in beach volleyball - a sport that is not very developed in Israel, despite the country's plentiful beaches and sunshine.
"We want to invest, but there isn't enough money and there aren't teams or an organized league yet. We need support. A lot of that depends on this championship," says Glick.
"If we bring in a good championship it will help a lot," says Lotan. And Glick giggles: "I want to play on the beach until I am 50, until I am in a wheelchair and can't anymore."