Soviet Emigres Make Up Israeli Team at the Olympics

Call it the Soviet connection. All three athletes representing Israel at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, which opens this weekend, have roots in the former Soviet Union — and two were actually born there.

The ice dancing duo of Galit Chayat, 23, and Sergei Sakanovsky, 22, will join Misha Shmerkin, who participated in the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Norway.

Chayat, born to a Russian family in the Israeli town of Kfar Saba, moved at the age of 6 with her family to the United States. Sakanovsky, born in Russia, made aliyah three years ago and then moved to Delaware to train with Chayat.

The couple recently placed 12th in the recent European championships in Milan, Italy.

Shmerkin, who was born in Odessa, Ukraine, will participate in men’s skating – - he will perform to Chasidic and Israeli music in his short program, and to Central European Jewish music for his free skate.

Shmerkin placed 16th at the Lillehammer games. He hopes to finish in the top 10 this year.

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