Israel

Israeli Olympic Skater: “It’s Very Special to Literally Have My Country’s Name on My Back”

Olympic figure skater Aimee Buchanan said that it’s “very special” to have her country’s name on her back, in an interview with Jewish Telegraphic Agency, published Wednesday.

Buchanan who began figure skating in Boston in 1998, said she never thought she would fulfill her Olympic dream as a part of Team Israel, but is now part of Israel’s largest-ever delegation to the Winter Olympics, held this year in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

In an interview with NBC 5, Buchanan recalled, “When I was four years old and I first started to skate I was like, ‘I want to go to the Olympics!’ My mom’s just like… sure every little kid’s going to say that.”

As she progressed in the sport, it became clear that she was ready for the international stage. She realized that Israel was the ideal place to enhance her international status.

When she formally made Aliyah in 2014, she had never visited Israel. Within six weeks of her arrival, at age 20, she became an Israeli citizen and, later, Israel’s 2016 Ladies National Champion.

In 2017, Buchanan moved to Dallas, Texas to train for the Olympics. Although she trains in the United States, Israel is never far from her mind.

“It’s very special to literally have my country’s name on my back,” she said. “I think it just shows that it doesn’t really matter where you’re originally from or what your heritage is. You can be who you are and do what you want all over the world.”

By representing Israel, she is learning the daily hardships Israelis face.

In some international competitions, she has been advised to remove identifying clothing when leaving the arena. While at a number of European meets, she travels with security as well. She realizes that athletes from other countries don’t need to follow these precautions, they are only necessary for Israeli athletes. The anti-Israel and anti-Semitic uptick has sadly made these safeguards a necessity when traveling abroad.

The slights don’t only occur outside the rink. At one meet, Aimee scored below normal for the event and, while it wasn’t specifically stated, many people believe it was because she skated to Hebrew music.

“Everyone always says that the artistic scores suffer being from Israel,” Buchanan said. “Because not everyone loves the country.”

This weekend, Buchanan will make her Olympic debut and hope to help Israel win the team competition. On Tuesday, February 20, she will be skating for an individual medal.

Along with figure skating, Team Israel is also competing in Alpine Skiing and Skeleton.

A strong performance by figure skater Alexei Bychenko on Friday, the first day of competition, will give Israel a chance to earn its first Winter Olympic medal.

[Photo: Brau Avitia 2 / YouTube]