Israeli Skater’s Flawless ‘Hava Nagila’ by the Forward

Israeli Skater’s Flawless ‘Hava Nagila’

Image by Getty Images

Representing Israel on Thursday night in the men’s short program in the group skate competition, Ukrainian-born figure skater Alexei Bychenko took to the ice with a vigor. In one of the first events of the Pyeongyang 2018 Olympics, Bychenko needed a score of above 86.79 to beat his season’s best.

As the opening strains of “Hava Nagila” rang out, a nod to his Judaism and the country he now skates for, Bychenko exuded the confidence of a bar mitzvah party motivator, the exuberance of a schnapps-drunk uncle, and the technique of a world class figure skater. With a flawless series of triple lutzes, laybacks, and a perfectly executed quad jumps, Bychenko crushed his season’s best, attaining an 88.49. He ended the night in second place, just behind Japan and far ahead of Nathan Chen, the 18 year-old American champion.

At 30 years-old Bychenko, who also goes by Oleksii, has been a professional skater for half of his life. Representing Ukraine until 2009, he chose to switch allegiances to Israel, citing heritage on his mother’s side. Unusually, Bychenko slowly but distinctly improved his scoring as he approached 30; he finished in 21st place at the 2014 Olympics but has since regularly medaled at major competitions. He is the flag-bearer for the Israeli team and is widely considered Israel’s strongest figure skater, known throughout the international world of figure skating for the consistency of his performance.

With the confidence that only a man in a billowing peasant top and shimmering taupe-colored blouse can pull off, Bychenko delivered a crisp, rollicking program to Hava Nagila. Kicking up his heels to an arrangement of the tune that seemed to combine the classic medley with the music in “Lord of the Rings” that accompanies the Ring Wraiths charging towards Mordor, Bychenko nailed each of his moves. He was smiling the entire time.

Deadspin lamented that Bychenko performed to “the most cliched Jewish song of all time,” but we have to disagree. There was such electric joy tinged with danger in Bychenko’s performance that you could practically hear the Cossacks at the door. “He says one of his hobbies is partying,” a commentator said, as the champion went in for a final death-defying spin. Bychenko’s skate is getting the party started in Pyeongchang for Israel and for all the rest of us.

You can watch Bychenko’s short-skate to Hava Nagila here:

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny


Israeli Skater Alexei Bychenko’s Flawless Hava Nagila

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires 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 and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. 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 Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Israeli Skater’s Flawless ‘Hava Nagila’

Thank you!

This article has been sent!