Thousands of immigrant and native Israelis in Israel play organized sports whose roots go back to the English-speaking nations, some of them representing their native or newfound homeland abroad. Some Israelis live overseas, yet still represent the Blue and White in international competitions. Here are some of the highlights of Anglo sports of 2014...
Baseball: Senior national team wins gold in Slovenia
The Israel National Senior National Team won the European Championships C Pool in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in August. This win placed Team Israel in the Confederation of European Baseball’s B Pool for 2015’s competition. Israel’s victory was absolute, with five straight, convincing victories over Finland, Slovenia, Latvia, Romania (8-3 in the semifinals) and, in the finals, Slovenia 14-0.
Bowling: Knocking down World Cup competition
Oron Cohen, who plays in Haifa’s Nesher Bowling Club, finished eighth at the AMF Men’s World Cup in Poland in November. He was trying to repeat the accomplishment of fellow Israeli Or Aviram, who won it in 2013. Still, Cohen was impressive against AMF professionals, averaging 225.33 over 36 games, including a high score of 279.
Cricket: The year’s lone century
Eshkol Solomon, who was elected captain of the national cricket team this year, scored the only century of the season in the domestic league. His feat came on October 17 at the Lod Cricket Ground, when he was playing for the home team against Ra’anana. His 102 not out helped Lod regain the Division I trophy.
Curling: Silver on the first try
In its first international competition, the Israeli national curling team took home a silver medal at the 2014 European C-Group Championships in The Netherlands, in October. The team, which trains in North America, consists of three sabras living in Canada – siblings Gabriel and Gilad Kempenich, and Yuval Grinspun; Adam Freilich, the son of an Israeli father; and one new immigrant, Jeff Lutz.
Football: MVP sweep at World Championships
Two Israelis garnered Most Valuable Player awards at the men’s and women’s World Championships in Italy. (The tournament was moved from Israel because of the summer war.) Dani Eastman, 20, the men’s MVP, serves in the Israel Defense Forces and plays for the Israel Football League’s Judean Rebels. Yael Freedman, 26, the women’s MVP, plays for Big Blue of Women’s American Football in Israel. “It’s nice to represent Israel on the podium,” said Eastman. “Next time, though, we want to bring home the gold medal to Israel.”
Golf: Israel’s first player on LPGA Tour
Laetitia Beck became the first Israeli player on the LPGA Tour when she birdied the first sudden-death hole at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Florida, on December 7. Beck, a Duke University graduate who grew up in Caesarea, was one of seven players who went to a three-hole playoff to decide the final three cards.
Ice hockey: A taste near the top
Israel’s national men’s team defeated Australia 4-3 in its opener of the 2014 IIHF World Champions Division II tournament in Belgrade on April 9. The team had placed first in Division II B in 2013, earning promotion to Division II A. The rest of the tournament was less than successful, so Israel will return to Division II B for the 2015 championships.
Lawn bowls: Success in Cyprus
Israel has enjoyed much international success in lawn bowls, with 2014 no exception. The men’s team won the four-nation event in Cyprus, going undefeated in the triples and fours, while dropping only one game each in the singles and pairs en route to a 10-2 finish. Colin Silberstein was the team captain, joined by Yair Bekier, Danny Slowdovnic, Haviv Takin and Zvika Hadar.
Rugby: Reaching new heights
Israel debuted in European Division 2A on October 25, putting up an admirable performance against Switzerland. The team had finished at the top of the 2012-14 Division 2B table. Some 2,000 spectators showed up at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sports. Down 15-6 at halftime, Guy Matisis’ try closed the gap to 15-11, before Israel eventually fell 28-18.
Soccer: Once is not enough
The most prolific scorer in soccer’s sportsdirect.com Olim League is Ra’anana’s Aviad Ben Meir, and he achieved the feat of scoring five goals in a match twice this season. He first did it against Inter Tel Aviv on September 13, and then matched his earlier effort with five goals against Athletico Jerusalem on November 22. He has 19 so far this season.
Honorable mention: Lacrosse
On July 15, the Israel men's national lacrosse team dominated 6th-ranked Germany, 15-1, to advance to the quarterfinals of the quadrennial FIL World Lacrosse Championships in Denver, Colorado. The blue-and-white scored 120 goals in the World Games -- more than any other country -- finishing with a 6-2 record in their debut performance, good for 7th in the world.
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