Israeli Olympic Skaters Find Unlikely Home in New Jersey Training Center

Garden State Nurtures Jewish State's Sochi Hopes

Golden Pair: Israeli skaters Evgeni Krasnapolsky and Andrea Davidovich prepare for Winter Olympics.
getty images
Golden Pair: Israeli skaters Evgeni Krasnapolsky and Andrea Davidovich prepare for Winter Olympics.

By Hillel Kuttler

Published February 04, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Multi Page

(JTA) — Evgeni Krasnapolsky and Andrea Davidovich glide around the ice, shadowing one another to the accompaniment of Nino Rota’s “Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet.”

At a rink in this New York City suburb, the figure-skating pair are refining their long program a few weeks before the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, that open Friday.

Krasnapolsky, 25, and Davidovich, 16, are practicing their choreographed hand holding, lifts and throws at the indoor Ice House complex, which has become the epicenter of Israel’s Winter Olympics team, or at least its figure-skating component.

The pair, who began working together less than a year ago, will represent Israel at the Sochi games along with fellow figure skater Alexei Bychenko, 25, who also trains here year-round. The figure skating competition will be held Feb. 11-12.

Rounding out the Israeli contingent are alpine skier Virgile Vandeput, 19, based in Belgium, and short-track speed skater Vladislav Bykanov, 24, based in the Netherlands. All are first-time Olympians.

Krasnapolsky and Davidovich are coached by Galit Chait, a three-time Israeli Olympian in ice dancing, and Gennadi Krasnitski. Overseeing the New Jersey operations is Chait’s Moldova-born father, Boris Chait, the president of the Israel Ice Skating Federation despite living in the United States since 1975.

He’s not the only American playing a major role on the Israeli Winter Olympics scene. New York native Stanley Rubinstein, who immigrated to Israel in 1971 and resides in Caesarea, founded the Israel Ski Federation and serves on its board.

Chait, the owner of a computer consultancy, is cultivating a crop of skaters he predicts will represent Israel at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and beyond.

The Chaits offer some names to keep an eye on: Artem Tsoglin, Netta Schreiber, Polina Shlepen, Daniel Samohin, Kimberly Berkovich, Ronald Zilberberg, Allison Reed and Vasili Rogov.

“I hope that we continue to grow and produce athletes who … are at the top of the world in international competitions,” says Galit Chait, who is coaching seven 2014 Olympians.

A nonprofit organization founded by Boris Chait, the International Sports Program, houses and trains the 11 skaters here who are Israeli citizens, along with nine others based in California, New York, Russia and Ukraine. The athletes train abroad because of Israel’s paucity of ice rinks and high-quality coaching.

Funding for the program comes from private donations along with the Israel Ice Skating Federation, the Olympic Committee of Israel and the International Skating Union, he says.

Greater funding for training, regardless of locale, would serve Israel’s interests beyond sport because every athlete “is an ambassador” for the country, Chait says from a gallery while observing Bychenko and Tsoglin, a 15-year-old from Kiryat Shemona in northern Israel.

The New Jersey operation has provided some encouraging achievements. At the European Championships last month in Budapest, the Krasnapolsky-Davidovich duo finished seventh and Bychenko was 10th. In December, in Croatia, the pair placed first and Bychenko was fourth at the Golden Spin of Zagreb. Israel has yet to medal in a Winter Olympics.

The achievements come at a cost: The upkeep for each athlete training here runs about $100,000 annually, covering room and board, ice time, coaches, costumes, choreographers, travel to competitions — “including, including, including,” Chait adds, gesturing with a rolling hand.

The arrangement means that “athletes don’t have to worry about their next meal,” Chait says. “All they have to do is train hard on and off the ice and do their schoolwork,” if they are that age. Davidovich and Tsoglin are enrolled in an online high school.

Ten of the 11 Hackensack skaters live in a tidy, refurbished white house less than a mile from the Ice House, overseen by a den mother named Nadia. Davidovich lives with her family a 40-minute drive away.

Absent the New Jersey infrastructure, “we would not be able to get to the Olympics,” Bychenko says in one of the home’s two kitchens while gulping a mid-afternoon yogurt.

“It was a hard decision because my family is there,” adds Bychenko, who arrived from Kiev three years ago. “If I were skating in Ukraine, I would not have gotten to the level I am at now.”

Krasnapolsky, also from Kiev, was raised in Kiryat Shemona — near Metulla, home of the Canada Center ice rink — and has known Chait “since I started skating.” He calls Chait’s wife, Irene, “my second mom.”

Sitting beside Krasnapolsky, Davidovich nods. She and her partner believe they are progressing nicely, tweaking their routines along the way. Earlier in the week they added a more difficult triple-throw to their short program (to Joshua Bell’s “Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra”).

On the ice an hour earlier, Galit Chait had held up her iPad as she consulted with the pair, slowing down a video clip to point out errors she had observed with the naked eye.

“We were a little bit off in the parallel spin,” Davidovich explains.

Before their on-ice session, Davidovich and Krasnapolsky had spent 40 minutes in the Ice House workout room practicing lifts, throws and twists in their stockinged feet, each landing occurring inside a marked white box. They rehearse this way twice daily, plus do cross-training and ballet each twice weekly.

Soon after the pair settled on their long program’s music last June, Davidovich’s mother, Marina, took them to Manhattan to attend the American Ballet Theatre’s performance of “Romeo and Juliet.” The show yielded ideas to incorporate in their performance.

Soon they won’t have many more leisure opportunities. A month after Sochi, they’ll be off to Japan for the World Figure Skating Championships. That means lots more training at Israel’s home away from home in the Garden State.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.