|OMRI GEVA: Skeleton Racer|
"I didn't know what I was doing, I hit a lot of walls," the 21-year-old Israeli Olympic hopeful told the Jewish Tribune Western Edition in an interview after competing in the America's Cup, an international skeleton race, inLake Placid, NY.
Geva, along with teammate, Aliyah Snyder, a female Israeli skeleton slider, are a first for Israel; they are the first Israeli international skeleton racers. Both have their sights on competing in the 2010 Olympics.
"It was my dream from the beginning to represent Israel doing this," said Geva, who helped found the Israeli Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. "There is no big winter sports program in Israel, and we are responsible for raising all our own funds," Geva said, adding, "we do not have a full staff of coaches and technicians like some of the bigger teams [and] there is no place to train for skeleton within Israel, so we do all our training away from home."
Skeleton is not for the faint of heart. Athletes plummet head first down icy tracks, reaching speeds up to 130 km/hour and forces up to 5Gs, without braking or steering mechanisms (steering only through slight shifts in the body).
If it sounds dangerous, it is.
Two years after taking up skeleton, Geva came close to ending his career when he was catapulted off the track and 20 metres through the air, landing head first onto coolant pipes.
"My helmet split in two," said Geva, "It was the scariest moment of my life, I was sure I wasn't going to survive."
Apart from severe burns, cuts and swelling - superficial but painful injuries - the Israeli skeleton racer survived the massive crash and was back on the tracks within months, finishing the season at the Americas Cup in early April.
Geva, determined to represent Israel at the winter Olympics, sees his role as particularly important in view of the international sports arena, whic has again and again discriminated against Israeli athletes.
|Omri Geva reaches speeds up to 130 km/hour and forces up to 5Gs.|
"I'm the first to announce I'm Israeli and proud of it," the articulate young athlete told the Jewish Tribune, adding, "representing Israel comes with the additional responsibility of being a representative of the greater Jewish community."