Jewish Athletics 2017: Text versions September to December

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September 1

Lia Radus, 15, maintained her excellent run of form by placing a close second in the England Athletics Under 17 1500m Championships at Bedford. Her time of 4:33.34 cut a further five seconds from the personal best that she had set just one week previously. Radus now stands 13th in the UK U17 rankings, while still due to remain in the age group for a further year. Radus reported, "The running conditions were fairly good although a little too hot for my liking. I sat behind Kiara Frizelle, the eventual winner, throughout the race in the hope that I would be able to sprint past her. She went off really fast and we opened up an 11 second gap ahead of the third placer. I was unable to sprint for as long as usual because I have had a hip niggle for several days, which was frustrating.  But overall, considering that I started the season quite badly, I'm delighted to be ending it so well."

Roger Bruck, 78, brought his season to a satisfying conclusion by successfully defending his 100m, 200m, high jump and long jump titles at the Southern Counties Veterans Championships at Kingston. Bruck retains his top position in the UK V75 annual high jump rankings, stands second in the long jump and has top 10 places for both sprints.

Competing for Highgate AC one day before turning 17, Idan Gal-Shohet gained a long jump victory and triple jump second place in the Southern League at Parliament Hill. Gal-Shohet's triple jump mark of 12.44m was a personal best.

Rachel Ayrton, 18, improved her 400m PB to 65.64 at the latest Watford Open Graded Meeting.

September 8

Rain, cold and blustery wind damped down performances at the Youth Development League National Final at Birmingham. Sophie Dowson, representing Blackheath & Bromley, needed a clearance of just 3.40m to win the U20 pole vault. Lia Radus, competing for Shaftesbury Barnet, placed second in both the U17 1500m and 3000m, hampered by the mysterious disappearance of her spiked running shoes. Her teammate Emma Taylor, 16, recorded her second best ever javelin throw of 31.81m.

Competing for Highgate AC one day before turning 17, Idan Gal-Shohet gained a long jump victory and triple jump second place in the Southern League at Parliament Hill. Gal-Shohet's triple jump mark of 12.44m was a personal best.

Rachel Ayrton, 18, improved her 400m PB to 65.64 at the latest Watford Open Graded Meeting.

September 15

Gilad Nachshen, 13, set a new 800m best of 2:04.44 at the Watford Open Graded Meeting, to reaffirm his standing as the second fastest runner of his age in the country. His performance came three days after chasing home Jamie Rashbrook, one of the fastest 14-year-olds in the country, in a close race at the Eastern Young Athletes League Final at Bedford. Nachshen commented, "I surprised myself in both races, in that I had only done one training session in the previous fortnight. In the EYAL race, Jamie and I broke away from the field early on and ran virtually together. I pulled ahead with 150m remaining, but perhaps I surged too soon because he took me back in the final few metres. At Watford I ran at my usual tempo to pass 400m in 62 seconds, and was pleased to maintain that speed to the end.
The season has gone really well for me in terms of improving both my speed and my technique. In particular, running 1500m events has taught me to conserve my energy up to the end of the race!"

Contesting the high jump in his first competition of the year at the same Watford Open Meeting, William Levy, 17, cleared the bar at 1.60m.

Adam Firsht, 14, placed fifth in the Southern Counties U15 800m Championships in Oxford. He recorded 2:09.45, having run slightly faster in the heats earlier in the afternoon.

Sisters Jessica and Rebecca Hurley joined forces to form the Shaftesbury Barnet team for the U20 1500m steeplechase at the Youth Development League National Final in Birmingham. Jessica, 17 at the time, placed fifth in 5:51.72, less than a second outside her personal best. Rebecca, 19, recorded 6:35.70 in what was her first Shaftesbury race of the season and first steeplechase ever.

Rachel Ayrton, 18, improved her 400m PB to 65.64 at Watford.

September 22

David Stone set his Shaftesbury Barnet team on their way towards gold medals in the Middlesex Under 17 3x3km relay championships at Hayes. His opening leg of 9:16 was 15 seconds faster than any other competitor on the day, and his teammates never relinquished the lead that he set. In the Under 15 event, Gilad Nachshen (10:16, 3rd fastest leg of the race), and Bini Bloom (10:42, 6th fastest) helped Shaftesbury secure silver medals, competing against ten other club teams.

Sisters Jessica and Rebecca Hurley joined forces to form the Shaftesbury Barnet team for the U20 1500m steeplechase at the Youth Development League National Final in Birmingham. Jessica, 17 at the time, placed fifth in 5:51.72, less than a second outside her personal best. Rebecca, 19, recorded 6:35.70 in what was her first Shaftesbury race of the season and first steeplechase ever.

September 22: Obituary

Two weeks after setting a German high jump record, Gretel Bergmann was removed from the German 1936 Olympic team for "underperformance". The American team had just set sail for Germany to participate in the Berlin "Nazi" Olympics. The American Olympic Committee had previously threatened to boycott the Olympics if Jews were excluded from the German team.

Margarethe (Gretel) Minnie Bergmann was born in Laupheim, Southern Germany, the daughter of businessman Edwin Bergmann and his wife Paula Stern. Gretel enjoyed skiing, skating, swimming and tennis, but excelled in track and field. She possessed all-round ability, particularly in the shot, discus and high jump.

In 1931, shortly after her 17th birthday, Bergmann won the high jump event at the South German Championships, setting a national record of 1.51 metres. She retained the title the following year.

After the Nazis took power in 1933 Bergmann was expelled from her athletic club for being Jewish. In April 1933, Bergmann's parents sent her to the United Kingdom, seeing no future for her in Germany.

By 1934, America was threatening an Olympic boycott if Jews were excluded from the German team. American Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage travelled to Germany in September 1934 to investigate the Nazi treatment of the Jews. Seen by history as an anti-semite and an admirer of Hitler, Brundage only too willingly accepted Nazi pledges that there would be no discrimination against Jews. On the basis of a report from Brundage on conditions in Germany, in September 1934 the American Olympic Committee voted to send a US team to Berlin. However, with increasing Nazi brutality towards the Jews in Germany, pro-boycott activity continued in the United States throughout 1934 and 1935.

Bergmann won the British high jump championship in 1934 with a clearance of 1.55 metres. Her father came to watch, and to convey the message that threats made against the family compelled her to return to Germany. Bergmann returned, nominally a member of the German Olympic team, but still prohibited, as a Jew, from entering a stadium.

Many years later Bergmann related, "I was scared stiff thinking, ‘How are they going to get rid of me?’. I knew they wouldn't let me compete. I thought perhaps some night they would come and break my legs – anything was possible. I was so afraid every day of my life. But at the same time, I wanted to beat them so badly."

At a high jump trial in Stuttgart on 30 June 1936, one month before the Olympics, Bergmann tied the German record at 1.60 metres. Two weeks later her performance was struck from the record book and she was removed from the national team. Other team members were told that she was injured. In her 1995 testimony to the USC Shoah Foundation, she said "I just got a letter saying ‘I wasn't good enough’. The American team sailed on July 15 and my letter was written on July 16."

Ironically, the Olympic gold was won by Hungarian Jewess Ibolya Csák, with a winning height the same as that achieved by Bergmann at Stuttgart.

In 1937 Bergmann emigrated to the USA, lived in New York City and started using the name Margaret instead of Gretel. She worked as a housemaid, masseuse and later as a physiotherapist. In 1938, Bergmann raised the exit fees to allow German Jewish doctor Bruno Lambert, a sprinter himself, to also emigrate to New York. Bergmann and Lambert married that same year. Their marriage lasted for 75 years, until Bruno died in 2013 at the age of 103.

 In 1937, Bergmann won the US women's high jump and shot put championships. She retained her high jump title the following year, but ended her sports career at the outbreak of World War II. In 1942, she received United States citizenship.

In 1995 a Berlin stadium was named the Gretel Bergmann Sports Arena. Bergmann did not attend the ceremony. Four years later, the stadium in her birth place, Laupheim, from which she had been barred in the 1930s, was renamed the Gretel Bergmann Stadium. Bergmann returned for the dedication. She said: "I was not going to participate, but I was told that they were naming the facilities for me so that when young people ask, 'Who was Gretel Bergmann?' they will be told my story, and the story of those times. I felt it was important to remember, and so I agreed to return to the place I swore I'd never go to again."

In 2009, the German track and field association restored Bergmann’s German record into the record books and requested that she be inducted into the Germany Sport Hall of Fame. In August 2014, one of the streets leading to the Berlin Olympic Stadium was renamed Gretel-Bergmann-Weg.

Margaret Lambert is survived by two sons, Glenn and Gary; two grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Margaret Bergmann Lambert, born April 12, 1914, died July 25, 2017.

September 29

Sophie Dowson, 18, overcame more favoured competitors and atrocious weather conditions to take bronze in the European U20 Champion Clubs Cup in Brno, Czech Republic. Her performance contributed to Blackheath & Bromley's third-place finish in the competition. Dowson reported, "The conditions were the worst I have ever competed in. It wouldn’t stop raining and the ground was so wet that we couldn't fix markings to guide our run-ups. The poles were too slippery to grip without our hands sliding down. In the circumstances I was happy with my clearance of 3.40m."

Gabriel Nicholls, 14, entered the national U15 lists in three events at the Trafford AC Open Meeting. He recorded shot, discus and javelin marks of 11.17m, 23.77m and 30.73m respectively.

Rosalind Zeffertt gained V55 national discus ranking with a personal best throw of 14.37m at the Highgate & City of London Open Meeting at Parliament Hill.

September 29: Activity Supplement

The GB Track & Field squad came home from Maccabiah 2017 with an impressive haul of medals and personal bests, together with memories and new friendships to cherish for years.

Team manager Ellie Edwards provided immediate inspiration to her squad at the start of the two day athletics program. She improved on her previous best over the distance to take the Open (that is, Senior) 100m silver medal in 12.17. A few minutes later Eden Davis raced down the track in 10.51 to take the Junior 100m gold. Within the hour he was back to anchor the junior sprint relay team to an excellent silver medal.

The next day, July 13, Edwards and Davis were again on the track within minutes of each other, and this time it was gold for each of them. Recording times of 24.85 and 21.69 respectively, each won their 200m event by a huge margin and with a dramatic cut to their personal best.

David Stone, 15, was next on the track, in the junior 3000m. Track & Field Chair Murray Ayrton described what took place. "David had a plan, and he executed it perfectly. The Jerusalem altitude and heat did not make for easy conditions for distance runners. The other ten athletes in the race were by-and-large swarthy 18-year-olds. David sprinted off from the start, covering the first 200m in 31 seconds, and immediately built up a huge lead. The rest of the field clearly believed that he would blow up. By the time they realised that they had miscalculated, it was too late. Although they managed to close the gap to an extent, David won by more than six seconds.”

A day of great achievement was rounded off by Idan Gal-Shohet taking the junior long jump bronze medal, and the junior boys 4x400m relay team taking a further bronze.

Edwards summed up her experience at the Games. “In both events, especially in the 200m, I was up against faster athletes. So I was delighted with both my performances, particularly the 200 gold. Taking responsibility for my team of ten athletes throughout the Games was one of the most challenging things I have ever done, but also the most enjoyable."

Davis said, “It was difficult at first to train in the heat of the Israeli summer, but after a few days we adapted. It was a tremendous experience and everyone was very supportive, barring a bit of gamesmanship from the Israeli athletes.”

Stone explained his tactics with characteristic modesty. “I saw the 1500, in which the Israelis stayed back and kicked at the end. So I decided to go off as fast as possible to avoid getting caught. Luckily the plan worked.”

Murray Ayrton summed up with this tribute to the team. “I am exceptionally proud of this squad of ten athletes. It had a great mix of experience and youth and every member of the team played their part in delivering the best performance of any MGB squad at the 2017 Maccabiah.

With twenty nations represented at the track, the quality of competition was of genuine international class. Every team member was a genuine medal contender and all delivered wonderful performances.

Each member of this squad has shown that they have the potential to be an outstanding role model in our community.”

October 6

David Stone ran a storming second leg in the Southern Road Relays at Crystal Palace to advance his Shaftesbury Barnet U17 team from seventh place to second. He cut a 41 second deficit down to 4 seconds, achieved the fastest time of the day over the second leg, and was sixth fastest overall out of 131 timings. Sisters Maayan and Lia Radus were likewise amongst the fastest performers in the girls' U15 and U17 races respectively. Gilad Nachshen and Matti Harris provided good service for Shaftesbury in the U15 event while Hannah Viner was the fastest performer for Highgate in the Senior Women’s competition.

October 13

Hannah Viner, of Highgate Harriers, has won the Maratón de Logroño 10K race in Northern Spain for the second year in succession. Beating all but six of the male entrants in the field of over 200, Viner's time of 35:45 was an improvement of more than a minute over last year's performance.

October 20

Hannah Viner took the ladies’ victory in the Southend 10K in 36:35 in a field of over 1200 runners. Her win in Spain as reported last week means that Highgate Harrier Viner has achieved two significant 10K road victories in the space of eight days.

November 10

Hannah Viner placed second in a field of over 200 competitors at Claybury, in the first race of this season’s Start Fitness Metropolitan Cross Country League. Highgate Harrier Viner was in action again at the Hampstead Heath parkrun, where she and Tal Pelmont both set parkrun personal bests. Viner was first lady in 17:46 while Pelmont was first U18 competitor in 18:37.

Lia Radus ran the second fastest 2.5 km split amongst 58 timings at the South of England U17 cross country relay championships. Her younger sister Maayan, 13, was the fastest U18 competitor at the Bushy Park Parkrun, beating 20 minutes for the first time in a time of 19:27.

November 17

Richard Goodman returned to competition with a decisive victory in the second race of the Start Fitness Metropolitan League at Welwyn. It was the Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier’s first race since resuming serious training in September following a summer break.

The 7.8 km race consisted of three laps of a course that twisted back on itself repeatedly in hairpin fashion. Goodman reported, "It was good to be back in action doing what I like best, running around cross country fields. It was the largest field I have encountered in the Metropolitan League, more than 500 runners, and there were some top athletes competing. The start of the race was the fastest that I have ever experienced in this league. Going into the second lap I put in a surge and built up a lead that I was able to maintain to the end. For the rest of the race I was holding my nerve and trying to stay relaxed. It was a real test of fitness and extremely difficult but I was really pleased with the outcome."

Highgate Harrier Hannah Viner placed fourth in another huge field in the women's 6 km race.

Sisters Lia and Maayan Radus put in strong relay legs for Shaftesbury Barnet in the English National Relay Championships at Mansfield, and also ran well in the Chiltern Cross Country League at Milton Keynes.

November 24

Hannah Viner was delighted with her silver medal performance in the London Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill. Viner explained that she had used the 6 km, two lap race as preparation for this weekend's Euro Trials at Liverpool. "My plan was to go hard, and I led for three quarters of the first lap", Viner said. "Stephanie Davis of Clapham overtook me, but I was able to maintain my second place position and prevent Davis from stretching her lead much further".

Lia Radus led Barnet Borough to U17 team gold in the London Youth Games Cross Country Championship at Parliament Hill. Bouncing back from illness at the start of the week, Radus placed fourth in a close 2.8 km race over a muddy and challenging course.

"I was in a leading group of five in the long opening run up Parliament Hill", Radus said. "Over the last kilometre two leaders broke away, shortly followed by a third. Towards the end I clawed back most of the gap that had formed, but in the final few metres the girl in front of me found the strength to fend me off. At the end there were only 12 seconds separating the winner and myself in fourth place. Despite being a bit frustrated with having allowed a mid-race gap to develop, I am pleased with my performance overall."

Maccabiah gold medallist Ellie Edwards showed that her winter training is going well in an inter-university indoor match at Cardiff. Competing for Birmingham University, Edwards, now 21, raced 60m in 7.87 and set an indoor 200m PB of 25.88.

December 1

Hannah Viner narrowly missed a place in the GB team for next month's European Under 23 Cross Country Championships. Highgate Harrier Viner was tenth U23 finisher in the British Athletics Cross Challenge at Liverpool, which served as the Euro selection race. Viner, 21, recorded 29:49 for an 8.1 km course that earlier races had transformed into a mudbath.

“The conditions were very tough;" said Viner, "it was cold, windy and extremely muddy. The course consisted of one shorter lap and two long laps. It was the highest quality field I have competed against, and the race seemed like one relentless sprint. I made sure I moved close to the front from the start, and I maintained a position in the top ten throughout the race. I gave it everything I had in the last lap, but it wasn't quite enough to make the team this year. But it was a very good experience and bodes well for bigger races in the future.”

Roger Bruck will today be presented with the Southern Counties Veterans AC Jumps Trophy, for the best achievement in the Jumps category in their 2017 Championships. Bruck, 78, won Southern Counties V75 gold in the High Jump, long jump, 100m and 200m events. His greatest success in recent years has been achieved in the high jump, an event he only took up his mid-fifties. Pride of place amongst his many gold medals is his performance in last year’s British Masters Championships, in which he achieved an extraordinary clearance of 1.27m. This added 4 cm to his own M75 Southern Counties record and would have tied for gold in the World Masters Championships.

December 8

Richard Goodman was victorious again in his second race in this year's Start Fitness Metropolitan League at Uxbridge. The challenging 8 km two lap course included a brook to splash through on each lap.

"It wasn't such a crazy opening pace as in the last race", Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier Goodman commented. "I ran with the leading group and forged ahead when I put my foot down with 1 km to go". Goodman won by 7s in 23:21.

Hannah Viner, 21, led Highgate Harriers to team gold by placing fourth in the Senior Women's race. "The eventual winner, Naomi Taschimowitz, is a one-time European Under 23 silver medallist", said Viner. "She took the race out very hard. By half way, our leading group of four had built up a one minute lead over the rest of the field. But last week's race in Liverpool was still in my legs and it was all I could do to maintain my position".

Lia and Maayan Radus placed second and fourth respectively in the 4 km Junior Women's race, steering Shaftesbury Barnet to team victory. Their times were 14:32 and 14:42 respectively, with the winner recording 14:24. Lia, 16, commented that she felt somewhat tired, partly owing to the pressure of GCSE coursework. Maayan, 13, was very happy with her performance, saying "I felt strong so I simply tried to stay as close as I could to the leaders throughout".

Gilad Nachshen celebrated his 14th birthday by placing himself fifth in the indoor season UK Under 15 rankings over 300m. He recorded 39.92 in the Lee Valley Open.

December 15

Hannah Viner won the U23 category of the South of England Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships at Oxford, placing ninth overall. Highgate Harrier Viner, 21, completed the 6 km course in 20:14.

"It was my fifth race weekend in a row, and I felt tired", Viner commented. "The two-lap course was quite flat and uninteresting. It was fast from the start and I got myself into the leading group. It quickly splintered and I felt like I was chasing from early on. But I mustered up a good sprint at the finish, and the race represents continuing progress". 

December 29

The 2017 winners of the Daniel Sacks Awards for Outstanding Young Athletic Achievement are Emma Taylor, Idan Gal-Shohet and brothers Joshua and Adam Firsht.

Shaftesbury Barnet field event specialist Taylor, now 17, attained national ranking in the javelin, hammer and shot put. Her competitive season included two event victories in the Eastern Young Athletes League. "My favourite event is the javelin, and my most satisfying performance was setting a new best of 33.34m", Taylor said. "In fact, I improved in all four throwing disciplines, including the discus".

Long jumper Idan Gal-Shohet competed in the U20 age group although he was still 16 throughout the season. His furthest jumps, 6.78m and a slightly wind-assisted 6.81m, were longer than the spectacular world record leap that took Mary Rand to Olympic gold in 1964.

Highgate Harrier Gal-Shohet placed second in the Middlesex Championships, won junior bronze at the Maccabiah, and gained several league victories. "But I feel most proud of my performance in the South of England championship", he reflected. “My technique wasn’t great and I had a few foul jumps. But in the last round I was able to focus and apply my training under pressure, and I moved up from fifth to take the silver medal".

400m specialist Joshua Firsht, now 17, struck gold at the Independent Schools Association National Championships. But his most pleasing performance came when placing second in the Sussex Schools Championships. He explained, "My GCSEs were about to start and I was in two minds about whether to race. But I came close to winning, and set a new PB of 51.91".

800m runner Adam Firsht, 14, placed second in the Sussex Schools Championships, then one week later he achieved his season's ambition: he recorded an England Schools qualification time of 2:04.92 at the South Eastern Schools Championships. "That performance was my proudest achievement. At the start of the season I did not think it was possible", Adam said. His second fastest run came in hot and humid conditions at the England Schools Championships themselves. "It was amazing to compete in front of a big crowd in one of the largest youth competitions in the world", he reflected.

Three previous award winners each struck gold at the world's premier Jewish sporting competition. Eden Davis, 18, gained a Junior 100m and 200m sprint double at the Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem, with his performances sandwiched between GB junior international appearances. Ellie Edwards, now 21, demolished her personal bests to take senior gold in the 200m and silver in the 100m, while David Stone, 15, ran a brilliant tactical race to take the junior 3000m title against runners three years his senior.

Hannah Viner, 21, raced prolifically on track, road and cross-country. She placed second in both the Middlesex and London cross country championships and won two international 10k races in Spain. But her finest achievement was her remarkable victory in the England U23 5000m Championships.

Richard Goodman, 24, ran four races in the Metropolitan League and won them all, as well as winning the Middlesex cross country title. On the track he passed a long-awaited milestone in running 5000m in 13:59.94.

Racing often in the Eastern Young Athletes League and in Watford Open Graded Meetings, Gilad Nachshen cut his 800m best to 2:04.44 to rank second in the UK for first year U15s.

Woodford Green javelin specialist James Bongart, 21, added almost 4m to his personal best. His throw of 62.08m places him sixth in the UK U23 standings.

Blackheath & Bromley pole vaulter Sophie Dowson, 19, moved to UK U20 fourth place with a clearance of 3.91m.

Lia Radus culminated an excellent run of form by placing a close second in the South of England Athletics U17 1500m Championships. Her time of 4:33.34 places her 13th in the U17 national rankings, while she remains in the age group next year. Younger sister Maayan, 13, beat 5 minutes for 1500m on three occasions and ranked seventh in the UK in her year group for 3000m.

Sprinter and jumper Roger Bruck, 78, continued to belie his age by winning four golds in the Southern Counties Veterans Championships and two golds, a silver and a bronze at the British Masters Championships.

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