Jillian Schwartz has been inundated with telephone calls over the past two days. Everyone, it seems, wants to congratulate the 23-year-old pole-vaulter on qualifying for a place at the London Games. While this won't be Schwartz's first Olympics - she represented the United States in Athens in 2004 - it will be the first one where she will have the symbol of the State of Israel on her uniform. And she's absolutely delighted about it.
"This is a very special and very emotional moment," she told Haaretz this week. Schwartz immigrated to Israel after the 2009 Maccabiah Games, where she represented the U.S.
"This is the greatest moment in my career," she says. "I am delighted to have reached the criteria so early in the season, as I now have the peace of mind to focus on my training and the meets in the run-up to London. I knew I was capable of qualifying and I am thrilled to have booked my place. I've gotten dozens of phone calls since Sunday, from Israel and from my friends in the states. My former colleagues in the states may be a bit disappointed that I'm not representing Team USA, but they're still happy for me and they all congratulated me."
Schwartz spends most of her time in the U.S., coming back to Israel occasionally for local competitions. Nonetheless, she feels connected to the country. She decided to immigrate to Israel when she understood that the chances of making it to London were greater if she represented Israel, since competition for a place in the U.S. team is so tight.
"Just the thought of marching under the Israeli flag at London is very moving," she says. "I have been given a chance to represent the State of Israel and I will do everything it takes to make the most of that. Just because I spend most of my time in the states doesn't mean that I'm not very deeply connected to Israel. As far as I am concerned, I am an Israeli through and through. My first goal is to make it to the final in London, then I can start thinking about a medal. I know it's possible. I just have to make sure I'm in peak condition and I will prove that I am one of the best in the world."