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The Israeli judo team is coming off a strong performance at the European matches, where it earned four medals. Ze’evi and Smadja are hoping that Schlesinger finds her way to the podium at the Olympics.
“She’s been [training] with me since she was 16,” Ze’evi said of Schlesinger. “I’ve seen her go from a promising athlete into one of the best in the world.” Smadja calls her “a serious candidate for a medal.”
Schlesinger, who is “very satisfied that Arik is 35 and still competing,” voices cautious optimism about her chances in London. She did not win a medal in Beijing but has since won three bronzes – at the 2009 world championships and at the 2009 and 2012 European championships.
But unlike Ze’evi, who sets the bar high for himself, Schlesinger says only that she hopes to “go home in peace” from London.
“Like everyone else I want a medal,” she says, “but I want to enjoy it.”
Smadja notes that “not everybody says ‘I’m going to win a medal.’ ”
Close relationships and judo have always come together for Schlesinger. Her brother introduced her to the sport as a child, and she attributes her success to her parents, who would take her to competitions on weekends.
Now her boyfriend, Pavel Musin, also is her coach. Schlesinger says Musin’s dual roles “help me a lot.”
“To be in such an intense situation and be so close makes the experience different, makes it fun,” she said.
Schlesinger says her romantic relationship relieves stress from practices rather than augmenting it.
“Between every coach and athlete there are moments of tension,” she said. “But we have to solve them because we have to go home [together] at night.”