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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

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

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