Menu JTA Search

Jewish Athletes Winners in Olympics

Between 1896 and 1968, 131 Jews from 17 nations won 236 medals–101 gold, 68 silver and 67 bronze–in Olympic competition. Divided by sport, the first place went to fencing where Jews won 71 medals–31 by Jews from Hungary and 13 from the USSR. Thirty-three medals were won by Jews in track and field events, 15 of them by competitors from the US, and 25 in gymnastics, 14 of them from Hungary. Twenty-four medals were won by Jews in swimming and 20 in water polo. Only one Jew has ever won a medal in ice hockey, judo or rowing.

Taken by countries, Hungarian Jews lead with 76 medals followed by the US with 47 medals and the USSR with 30. Next is Austria with 20 and Belgium with 14. In the first modern Olympic Games at Athens in 1896, seven Jewish athletes won 13 medals. In basketball Jews have excelled as coaches. Julius Goldman, an American, coached Canada to an Olympic medal in 1936 and Alexander Gomelsky did the same for the Soviet Union in 1964 and 1968.

A Jew has also won Olympic medals in cycling–Felix Schmal of Austria who won a gold and two bronze medals at the first Olympic Games. Two brothers, Alfred and Felix Flatow of Germany, won six medals – five gold – in the 1896 Games. At the first Olympic Games Jews were outstanding in swimming, winning all three events. Mark Spitz, who won four medals for the US in the 1968 games, set records in the butterfly stroke this week.

ISRAEL NEVER WON OLYMPIC MEDAL

Israel has never won an Olympic medal but one of the most distinguished of Jewish medalists. Agnes Keleti of Hungary, who won no less than 11 medals, settled in Israel after the 1956 revolution in Hungary and became one of the country’s main gymnastic trainers.

One of the great track and field athletes of the early 20th century was Myer Prinstein of the US who won medals at several Olympic Games. Britain’s Harold Abrahams won the 100 meters race in 1924, was captain of the British Olympic team in 1928 and today is chairman of the British Amateur Athletics Board. His brother, Sir Sidney Abrahams, who became Chief Justice of Uganda, ran for Great Britain in the 1908 and 1912 Olympics. Jews won 24 medals in the 1956 Olympics, 18 in 1964 and 19 in 1968.

NEXT STORY