Israeli Paralympics sailing teams in Melbourne

November 27, 2015 by Roz Tarszisz
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Two Israeli Paralympics sailing teams have been training in Melbourne for the chance to compete in the Rio Olympics in 2016.

The Criteria Regatta starts tomorrow and the teams have spent a week preparing themselves, and the boats, for the qualifiers.

Practising on Port Philip Bay off Melbourne

Practising on Port Philip Bay off Melbourne

Both racing boats are adapted for disabled athletes. Sonar is a three crew person boat, Scud 18 is designed for two.

Altman Israel, the Sonar team’s coach told J-Wire that the local Israeli community had been most welcoming and they feel quite at home.

“We feel we belong, it is very nice, very warm” said Israel.

The Sonar team is a mature one and all are Zahal veterans. Dror, (47) the skipper was an F16 pilot paralyzed when his driver felt asleep driving him and a colleague from one base to another, Arnon (63) served on land in Egypt during the Yom Kippur war where he lost an arm. Shimon (57) lost some functions of his leg when he served in an elite unit during the first Lebanon war.

Husband and wife team Moshe and Hagar Zhavi, train in Herzliya with their coach, Alon Dagan.  Coach Israel’s team train out of Beit Halochem, Haifa, a centre for  Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization (ZDVO) veterans. ZDVO is a registered non-profit organization, established in the wake of the War of Independence (1949), with the purpose of providing the disabled veterans with all their needs towards the long process of rehabilitation.

Civilian victims of terror who have remained severely disabled are able to become full members of the four Beit Halochem centers.

When asked how much he loved sailing, Dror said

“If you don’t love it, you are in the wrong sport.  The goal is to gain a gold medal. You have to love being on the water because it is very hard and we do it to win, not just to sail. Sailing and winning is the best result we can hope for”.

Coach Israel said his team will usually be  training on the water 4-5 hours per day and he trains them from a motor boat. Israel is a social worker who focuses on using outdoor activities as a therapeutic tool for PTSD sufferers and youth at risk.

The Sonar team has not had sufficient funds to practice much this year; sailing is an expensive sport and coming to Australia was a big slice of the budget.  Israel said that if the team does qualify for Rio, there will be government funding for that but they are always short of funding for training.

The teams are hungry for another challenge and proud of their efforts to change the attitudes of sailors and sports fans towards people with a disability.

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