06 August 2008

Israel's Orthodox Olympian

Yes, she is wearing pants.

It's not easy to modestly kick the daylights out of people with such high kicks, wearing a long denim skirt.

Israel's only Orthodox Olympian at Beijing is 20 year old Bat-El Gaterer from Kochav Yaakov -- and she's on the Taekwondo team.

Yes, we're mighty proud!

Twenty-year-old Gaterer grew up in Kochav Yaakov not far from the West Bank city of Ramallah. At the age of nine, she registered for a street fighting class and her coach suggested she focus on footwork. Recognizing her potential, he referred her to the Achi-yehuda Dojang club and its team in Jerusalem. Gaterer began learning Taekwondo when she was 12 and hasn’t stopped kicking since. While studying at the girls’ seminary in Ofra, she also started training with Israel's national team.

“Everyone at seminary accepted it (Taekwondo practice) and supported me,” said the Olympic delegate.

Gaterer failed her first attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games. She sought to reach one of the first places in the Taekwondo World Championship, but only came in fifth. Later on she made up for it by taking the Bronze Medal at the Taekwondo European Championship – and a ticket to China. She hopes to further surprise her fans in the Olympic Games.

What about practice or competitions held on Saturday?

“There’s no practice on Saturday. And my Olympic matches don’t fall on Saturdays. We checked it.”

Could you imagine representing Israel in the Olympic Games?

“I didn’t even dream of it, but when I started training I got to like the idea. Not to mention the fact that I once thought of becoming a pilot or an astronaut.”

What are your chances to win a medal?

“I hope for the best.”

Does practicing Taekwondo changed you or are you just as observant as before?

“I am just as religious as I was before.”

And you never contemplated quitting it (religion) for career’s sake?

“Never. At first it was really hard to incorporate the two, but I did it.

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