For more on the Frozen Chosen, please visit www.israelibobsled.com

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

David Greaves Can’t Stop Sliding ... Up

By Scott Taylor - Retrieved from http://www.jewishpostandnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=603

David Greaves knew he’d already seen his best days in a bobsleigh. He knew it was time to go on and do something else and for the most part, he’s done just that.

But the 43-year-old Winnipegger, who is the Director of Development and Marketing for the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba and an honored member of Manitoba’s Jewish Sports Wall of Fame, was drawn back into a sport that was once, and might still be, an oxymoron for most young Jewish kids – World Championship Bobsledding.

Greaves has only recently returned from Lake Placid, N.Y., where he was doing some schmoozing, watching Israel’s newest sliding athlete and, in a different sort of way, putting the old band back together.

David Greaves’ days as a world-class athlete may have passed him by, but his love for the sport that brought him to the world stage, has never waned.

“A couple of years ago we came across a skeleton athlete,” said Greaves, who is now the Secretary General of the Israeli Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation.

“At the end of 2010, Brad Chalupski was on the low end of the United States Development Team. There were about 15 people ahead of him. But he was from New Jersey and he was one of us, so we approached him and suggested he should slide for Israel.

 “Last year, he competed in the World Jr. Circuit and we’re hopeful that he will continue to improve and perhaps qualifies for the 2014 Olympics.”

These days, Greaves is a behind-the-scenes guy, but in Lake Placid last month, he admitted that all the memories that made him one of the most intriguing athletes ever produced in Manitoba, came flooding back.

At home in Winnipeg these days, David Greaves is a family man. His wife Tracy, a cantor at Etz Chayim Synagogue, and his two kids, daughter Nesya and son Aaron, merely watch bobsledding on TV, but 10 years ago, Greaves became a phenomenon. In fact, what Greaves and his teammates accomplished with the first Israeli Bobsled Team would probably have made for a great movie had Jon Turtletaub, John Candy and Doug E. Doug not made “Cool Runnings” first.

“This job that I have today with the Foundation allows me to stay involved in the sport,” Greaves said. “I’m six years removed from the sport as an athlete, but I can’t believe that as a Jew and a Zionist and a person who always wanted to do something for Israel, this role has been offered to me. Little did I know that the greatest thing I would do for Israel is ride in the back of a bobsled.”

The original Israeli Bobsled team was started by former United States Air Force Top Gun, Aaron Zeff, and former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman John Frank. Both lived in San Francisco and at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, came to believe that an Israeli bobsled team could train and eventually compete at the Olympic level.

Worlds IBSF_Feb_24._2012_for_website
Greaves, Director of Marketing Tamar Simon, and CFO Philip Nathan
While looking to fill out the team, Zeff was informed by his brother-in- law, former Winnipegger Rich Nairn who had moved on to become a front office executive with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, that a good Jewish athlete and close friend was, at the time, living in Calgary. Nairn felt Greaves might just make an excellent brakeman and suggested to Zeff that he give the Canadian a call.

“I got a call in 2002 from Aaron recruiting me,” Greaves recalled. “So I agreed to meet John and Aaron at the track in Calgary and the first question that everyone had was this: ‘Can these guys get the sled to the bottom of the hill?’”

After one frightening crash, they eventually did complete the course, and as a group, they trained, improved, got their Israeli citizenship papers and eventually formed the country’s first Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.
So on a late December day in 2002, almost 10 months after the 2002 Salt lake Winter Olympics, Greaves heard the most gut-wrenching and yet heart-warming words he’d heard in his 33 years on the planet.

“I heard the public address system at Calgary’s Olympic Park say something that has been burned into my memory,” he said with a chuckle. “The track is clear for Israel 1.

Being on the international stage at that race made me realize that I was part of a global Jewish community. There I was, a proud Canadian, representing Jews everywhere with my teammates. The Jewish connection really hit home when one of my teammate’s urged me to say the Shema before we went hurtling down the track. I was in that moment of realization when I he was wearing the Magen David and suddenly representing the Jewish homeland and the Jewish people in international sport.”

Amazingly, it got even better.

In two years, this small band of Jewish jocks had become a well-oiled machine, good enough to qualify for the 2004 World Championships.

“That was the year the World Championships were held in Konigsee, Germany,” Greaves recalled. “Our goal, from the day we started to put the team together, was to qualify for the Olympics in Torino, but getting to the world championships in Germany, representing Israel, was something I’ll never forget.”

Even for Greaves, the scene was surreal. After all, the team was competing in the Bavarian countryside at the base of a hill upon which sat the Eagle’s Nest, a chateau that was used as a retreat by Adolph Hitler.

In front of a German crowd of more than 10,000, a crowd that cheered wildly for a team from Israel as it entered a huge auditorium for the Opening Ceremonies escorted by a German child carrying the Israeli flag while a German orchestra played Hatikvah.

“I got chills,” Greaves said. “It was a powerful moment in my life, both as an athlete and as a Jew. I was in tears, and it solidified my desire to engage in Jewish community life. I went home and told my wife that I was going to quit my job and volunteer to work in the Jewish community. To be in Germany, having German fans cheer for us with a German band playing Hatikvah in the shadow of the Eagle’s Nest was a defining moment in my life as a human being, as a Jew and as a Zionist.”

Greaves’ team never did qualify for Torino, but the experiences they enjoyed together left an indelible legacy that is still very much alive today.

And it’s still alive because David Greaves was able to make the transition from athlete to head of the federation that he was instrumental in creating.

“I’m so grateful for what the sport did for me as an athlete and in lighting that Jewish flame for me,” he said. “We have a couple of very impressive athletes in our stable now and I don’t think we’re too far away from having serious Olympic medal contenders representing Israel.

“If I’ve learned anything it’s this: Every athlete from every country at the Olympics or World Championship has pride in his country, his flag and his team. But a Jewish athlete is different. His country is not just a country, but a people. And when you represent the Magen David in an international event everyone is watching you. Everyone has an opinion – good or bad – about Israel, based upon what they’ve seen in the media. But from what I experienced, no matter the country, athletes from around the world, when they see a Jewish athlete step on the field or the ice, they will cheer. That’s the power of the Magen David and it’s what solidifies the nation of Israel.

“My point is this: We all have a Jewish spark, a pilot light if you will. As Jews, we are obligated to find what it takes to turn that spark into a flame that helps us live meaningful, happy lives in our communities. Powerful moments and deep experiences await us all. Eight years ago in February, I had one of those deep, powerful experiences.”

It was an epiphany for Greaves, a experience that gave his life clarity and an experience will resonate with him for as long as he lives.

Life In the Fast Lane: David Greaves and Team Aiming to Field Israeli Bobsled Athletes at Olympics 2014

By Rhonda Spivak - Retrieved from http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=2173&sec=2&title=LIFE_IN_THE_FAST_LANE:_DAVID_GREAVES_AND_TEAM_AIMING_TO_FIELD_ISRAELI_BOBSLED_ATHLETES_AT_OLYMPICS_2014

David Greaves slipped out of his day job as director of development and marketing at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba about 10 days ago and went off to Lake Placid, NY in his role as chairman of the Israeli Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.

At Lake Placid Greaves got to see Bradley Chalupski slide down the bobsled track as if he were on a “flying cookie sheet.” Chalupski finished 29th among the 31 racers in the skeleton world championships (skeleton is a sport that is virtually unknown in Israel just like Chapulski).

 Chalupski competed in the race as an athlete representing Israel, even though Chalupski is not technically Israeli (yet) and the Israeli Olympic Committee isn’t even aware of Chalupski’s existence (but we'll get into that in a moment.) 
"We were so proud to see the Israeli flag on the track" says Greaves.

Courtesy of Ken Childs, www.slidingonice.com
Chapulski, 25, a law school graduate from Marlboro, NJ, whose father is Catholic, visited Israel for the first time on a Birthright trip, after never having a bar-mitzvah and being raised in a secular home.
He plans on making aliya to Israel this spring with his girlfriend, Chana Anolick, whose parents already live in Kochav Yaakov, a settlement in the West Bank. Chalupski will then concentrate on improving his racing times to qualify for the 2014 Winter Games.

 The idea of making aliya in time to compete in bobsled races on behalf of the State of Israel isn't a foreign concept at all to Greaves. Greaves was a brakeman on the first ever Israeli bobsled team that came together in 2002, and "I made aliya to do it", he fondly recalls. 
Greaves joined that first team having never been on a bobsled before. "That didn't stop me then," he says, noting that his team ended up competing in two world championships before disbanding after coming short in qualifying for the Torino Olympics in 2006.

 "It was a life-changing event to represent Israel when we first pioneered a team, and now I hope we can set Chalupski on his way to making Israel proud to have him as their symbol on the international stage of skeleton racing," Greaves says.
“On the World Cup circuit we are considered a serious player and Bradley has become a part of the fabric of the Bobsled and Skeleton community. Upon seeing the Magen David on our team jackets, Jews seemed to come out of the forests and crowds to strike up a conversation with us. They told us how proud they felt when arriving at the Olympic complex and seeing the Israeli Flag among all the other nation’s flags. Skeleton can be a very lonely sport but it is moments like this that’s keep us motivated."

 Chapulski last year qualified for the world championships, which were held near the site of Adolf Hitler’s alpine retreat, Eagle’s Nest near Berchtesgaden, Germany. Greaves competed in Germany when he was part of the Israeli bobsled team in 2004.
"To think that over 65 years ago there were no Jews left in Germany, there was no State of Israel and no Israeli Olympic team. And then to be a Jew on an Israeli bobsled, emblazoned with the Star of David competing in Germany within view of, Hitler’s secret retreat, Eagle's Nest.

It was an unbelievable moment to be there to see the Israeli flag fly over German soil,” Greaves says.
“To see the Israeli flag flying with all the other nations’ flags, in the shadow of Eagle’s Nest was so emotional for all of us,” Greaves ads. "This journey wasn't just about sliding down a slope. We were ambassadors for Israel, the Jewish state."

 The Israeli Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, a not for profit corporation in the US, which Greaves chairs, is run out of North America and receives no funding from the Israeli government or Olympic Committee."So it's up to us to fundraise and make it happen for Chapulski and his team" Greaves explains. “He’s sliding for a nation of people all over the world: Am Yisrael.”
Courtesy of Ken Childs, www.slidingonice.com
The CEO of the Federation and Chapulski's coach-Andy Teig, a paramedic who lives in Lake Placid is a member of the original bobsled team Greaves was on.

 Chalupski started out racing in a US program, but after narrowly missing making the US national team trials in 2010, he was going to quit riding skeleton and work for a law firm in France.
But Teig raised the idea of Chalupski racing for Israel. This set off a process for Chapulski of contemplating his Jewish identity.

 " Chapulski's girlfriend whose father is an Orthodox rabbi suggested that he had an obligation to do this since he was being asked to represent Israel to the world in a way that only he is capable of doing currently," Greaves says.
Within ten weeks, Chalupski decided to move to Lake Placid to begin training full-time and find a way to cobble together the money necessary to compete around the world.

Chalupski's supporting team consists of Tieg, Greaves, Tamar Simon, a Manhattan marketing director and Philip Nathan, an accountant from Washington DC. "Every group needs an accountant," Greaves chuckles.
"We are all volunteers who have been working together for almost two years now but had never met in person until were in Lake Placid for the world championships." he says. “I consider all members of this team, dear friends and with the help of technology, our meeting in Lake Placid felt like the reunion of old friends.

“We’ve been getting a great response from so many people and organizations: Jewish communities everywhere are coming out to help. People have donated frequent flyer miles and the team stays at the homes of local Jews. We have received support through a Facebook page and a website.
Team, Executives, and Friends at World Championships.
We've also gotten practice time from the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority, and a sponsorship from Mondetta, [clothing company], " Greaves notes. I’ve known Ash, Raj and Prashant (the Mondetta guys) for many years and they have really stepped up to the plate. Mondetta made an amazing commitment to us in custom designing our team winter wear. Up until then, we didn’t look much like a team.”
 There is also another hurdle on the horizon - which is to ensure that Israel will let Chalupski represent it at the Olympic competition, should he qualify to compete.
Greaves has an old letter from the Israeli Olympic Committee to the FIBT [Federation of International Bobsleigh and Skeleton] affirming the affiliation of what was then the newly created Israeli Bobsled Federation. But to represent Israel at the Olympics, athletes must meet several criteria, including competing in a sport that exists in Israel (which could well preclude Chalupski and all athletes from bobsled sports) 

 "We’re trying to build the best possible case for the Israeli Olympic Committee to want us to go and represent the State,” Greaves says. "We don't want it to be the case that Chalupski will qualify for the Olympics under international qualification standards but he won't be given the approval by Israel to go."
Chalupski ranked 68th in the world in men’s skeleton last year, and expects his ranking to be in the top 50 for 2012, which is s based on points an athlete receives for competing at events and based on his results. If he keeps advancing, it's likely he could qualify under a quota for warm-weather countries like Israel. Olympic qualifying competition begins in 2013.

Secretary-General David Greaves, Marketing Director Tamar Simon, CFO Philip Nathan
 Greaves says, "We want to raise enough money to buy Chalupski a new sled, which can cost $10,000. But it can make the difference in a race that can be won by a razor thin edge of split seconds."
Once Chalupski moves to Israel he's going to spend winters training on the bobsled tracks of Europe.
 "We're hopeful and extremely proud of Bradley, as should all Jews and sports enthusiast should be," says Greaves. "If we will it, it is no dream. We're also looking to recruit more skeleton and bobsled athletes."
Anyone who wishes to sponsor, support the team may contact Greaves at david@israelibobsled.com or email Philip Nathan at:nate@israelibobsled.com
For more information on the team, visit their website at: www.israelibobsled.com or follow them on twitter: @Melechdaveed @BradChalupski @TeamIsraelSkele

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"Keeping Our Heads Above Water"

By Michael Ordman - Retrieved from http://blogs.jpost.com/content/keeping-our-heads-above-water


Accompanying the wonder of Israel’s snow and ice, it is appropriate that Israel’s star ice sportsperson Brad Chalupski launched Team Israel’s entry into the World Championship bobsleigh and skeleton competition at Lake Placid. He may have only achieved 29th place in the men’s skeleton, but Brad wore his newly-painted Magen David helmet proudly and was heralded on his first run by one of his fans with blasts on a shofar.


Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
To subscribe, email a request to michael.goodnewsisrael@gmail.com

Thursday, March 1, 2012

On Skeleton, N.J.’s Bradley Chalupski Hopes to Sled for Israel at Olympics

By Uriel Heilman - Retrieved from http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/03/01/3091912/new-jersey-native-hopes-to-sled-for-israel-at-olympics

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (JTA) – Meet Bradley Chalupski, Israel’s best hope for a medal on the bobsled track at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

Chalupski is an unlikely Israeli athlete.

Photo: Ken Childs, www.slidingonice.com
For one thing he competes in skeleton, a sport that’s virtually unknown in Israel -- not to mention the rest of the world. For another, technically he's not Israeli.

His only visit to Israel came last year on a Birthright trip.

But come summer, the law school graduate from Marlboro, N.J., with a Catholic father is planning on making the move with his girlfriend, Chana Anolick, whose parents already live in Kochav Yaakov, a settlement in the West Bank. And Chalupski, 25, is hoping that he can improve his racing times to qualify for the 2014 Winter Games.

“Israel is allowing us in good faith to represent the good name of Israel to the world,” Chalupski told JTA. “We’re thankful that they’re letting us be out here.”

In skeleton, racers slide headfirst down icy bobsled tracks on steel-and-plastic sleds weighing 70 pounds without steering or breaking mechanisms at speeds reaching up to 80 mph. A single run takes about a minute, and races typically are won by several hundredths of a second. Aside from slight shifts in weight to help steer, the key factor in the race is the quality of one’s running start. Chalupski describes it as like riding a “flying cookie sheet.”

Last weekend, Chalupski finished 29th among the 31 racers in the skeleton world championships at Lake Placid, N.Y., the site of one of just two bobsled tracks in the United States (the other is in Park City, Utah). The fact that an athlete representing Israel had qualified at all had organizers scrambling before the competition to find an Israeli flag to post at the track. They eventually borrowed one from a nearby church when the flag they had ordered from a company in Arizona was late in coming.

“We’re legitimately competing; we’re not just showing up,” Chalupski said in an interview the night before the race.

Last year he also qualified for the world championships, which were held near Berchtesgaden, Germany, the site of Hitler’s alpine retreat, Eagle’s Nest. The symbolism of competing in the shadow of Hitler’s mountain estate wasn’t lost on Chalupski’s team.

“That’s when I realized that what we’re doing here is much more than just sliding on a track,” said David Greaves, chief fundraiser for the Israeli Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, which is run out of North America and receives no funding from the Israeli government or Olympic Committee. “The Israeli flag was flying on the track with all the other nations’ flags, and seeing Eagle’s Nest looking down on the track was emotional for all of us.”

Greaves, a Canadian whose day job is as director of development and marketing at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, was a brakeman on an Israeli bobsled team that came together in late 2002, competed in two world championships and disbanded after failing to qualify for the Torino Olympics in 2006. Another member of that team, Andy Teig, a paramedic who lives in Lake Placid, is Chalupski’s coach.

Chalupski didn’t start out racing for Israel. He began in the U.S. program, cutting classes during law school at Seton Hall University to train at Lake Placid, the site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. But after falling just short of making the U.S. national team trials in 2010, Chalupski was set to quit riding skeleton and go work for a law firm in France.

Then he got call from Teig, who had one question: Was Chalupski interested in racing for Israel?

The thought had never occurred to Chalupski, who was raised in a thoroughly secular home, didn't have a bar mitzvah and had never given Israel -- or his Jewish identity -- much thought. He knew one thing: He didn’t want to switch flags simply to qualify more easily for races, he said.

As Chalupski began talking over the decision with family and friends, a journey of Jewish exploration began. “Responses ranged from people who said, ‘Why haven’t you said yes already?’ to people who said, ‘You’re not Israeli, you’ve never been there, you don’t speak Hebrew, why would you do that?’ ” Chalupski recalled.
But the responses of his Jewish friends stood out. “They all said, ‘You’re Jewish. Of course you can represent Israel.’ I honestly had never thought about it that way. And I began to start to ask myself what it means to be Jewish.”

The clincher came from his girlfriend, whose father is an Orthodox rabbi. “She expressed the sentiment that I had an obligation to do it because as a Jewish man, somebody was asking me to represent Israel to the world in a way only I currently am capable of doing,” he said.

After 10 weeks mulling over the decision, Chalupski put his law career on hold -- much to his mother’s chagrin -- and moved north to Lake Placid to begin training full-time. In the two years since he has enjoyed some triumphs -- Chalupski won a medal in a lower-circuit race -- and faced a host of challenges, from getting enough practice time to scraping together the money required to compete around the world.

For help, Chalupski and his support team have been relying on the goodwill of Jewish communities around the world. When Chalupski goes to competitions, he often flies on donated frequent flyer miles and stays at the homes of local Jews. He has received support through a Facebook page and website. His support team -- coach from Lake Placid, fundraiser from Manitoba, marketing director from Manhattan and accountant from Washington -- is made up of volunteers who had never met in person until last weekend’s world championships.

“No matter what country you’re from, when you see that Israeli guy at the start line, you’re cheering for him,” Greaves said. “He’s sliding for a nation of people all over the world: Am Yisrael.”

The team also has gotten help from the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, known as the FIBT; practice time courtesy of the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority, which manages Lake Placid’s facilities; and sponsorship from a Canadian clothing company, Mondetta.

From Israel, the team says it is thankful just for recognition: Several years ago, Greaves said, Israel formally affirmed to the FIBT that the team behind Chalupski represents the Jewish state. Greaves is listed as the contact for the Israeli team on the website of the FIBT. However, when contacted by JTA, Israeli Olympic Committee officials said they knew nothing about Chalupski or the Israeli bobsled team.

"We have no connection; if they represent Israel or not I have no idea," Efraim Zinger, secretary general of the Israeli Olympic Committee, told JTA.

But Zinger said the Israeli Olympic Committee does not oversee all athletes who represent Israel, just those in Olympic competition. To represent Israel at the Olympics, athletes must meet several criteria, including competing in a sport that exists in Israel. That would seem to preclude Chalupski -- or any sport involving a bobsled track.

Indeed, one of Chalupski's support team’s biggest concerns is that he will qualify for the Olympics but Israel will not give him the green light to go. “We’re trying to build the best possible case for the Israeli Olympic Committee to want to send us,” Greaves said.

At the end of last season, Chalupski ranked 68th in the world in men’s skeleton. This year he expects to advance to somewhere around 50th. Though he’s still far from Olympic medal contention, Chalupski is edging closer to the point where he could qualify under a quota for warm-weather countries like Israel. Olympic qualifying competition begins in 2013.

During the competition at Lake Placid, Chalupski wore a new helmet emblazoned with the Israeli flag. Under it he wore his secret weapon: a kipah with the logo of the University of Maryland, his alma mater, which he got on his Birthright trip.

Ultimately, however, Chalupski will need more than symbols to improve his racing times. His backers' hope is that they can raise enough money in the offseason to buy Chalupski a new sled, which can cost up to $10,000 but which could make the difference in races measured in split seconds. Once Chalupski moves to Israel -- he’s already done the aliyah paperwork -- he plans to spend winters training in Europe, which has several bobsled tracks.

Teig says he hopes Chapulski won’t be the only Israeli competitor on the track come 2014.

“We are recruiting for bobsled and skeleton athletes,” Teig said. “Give me a call. We’ll run you through the combine.”