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Jemima walked to the first gold for Australian Jewish athletes

  • JackSportJemima
Jemima Montag made Australian history on Sunday when she became the first Jewish athlete from that country to win a gold medal in track and field at the Commonwealth Games.
by JACK MILNER | Apr 12, 2018

The 20-year-old from Melbourne won the 20km women’s walk on Queensland’s Gold Coast. She pipped her training partner, New Zealand’s Alana Barber, to the post with a time of one hour 32 minutes and 50 seconds. Barber was more than a minute behind Montag.

Montag is one of five Jewish athletes to have made it into this year’s Australian team. The others are rhythmic gymnast Alexandra Kiroi-Bogatyreva, who recently turned 16; Olympic 400m runner Steven Solomon; Paralympic swimmer Matthew Levy; and Paralympic table tennis player Barak Mizrachi.

Solomon also won through to the final of the men’s 400m, but proved no match for Botswana’s Isaac Makwala, who took his first major championship gold medal with team-mate Baboloki Thebe in second place. Jamaican Javon Francis came in third. Solomon finished in seventh place.

Montag certainly had a lucky break in her win as her Australian team-mate, Claire Tallent, was disqualified just 2km from the finish line. Racewalkers have to ensure that they do not break into a run, and are given two warnings before they are disqualified. Tallent had just taken the lead with 2km remaining when she was red-carded for a third time.

Tallent slumped to the road and burst into tears as she watched Montag sail past her to collect the gold medal.

Montag, who was competing for just the third time in the 20km event, had been leading for most of the race and was only a couple of metres behind Tallent when the runner was disqualified.

“That’s not the way I wanted to win the gold medal,” Montag said at her post-race interview. “I guess you have to stay in the moment and roll with what is happening and not let it take your focus away.

“It’s really hard and really unfortunate. Claire is a beautiful person, she has come back time and time again and she will come back stronger.”

In her interview, Tallent told the media: “I’m old and kudos to Jemima. She is a great girl and she is going to carry the flag for many, many more years to come. I just thought it was my day.”

Montag started competing at the age of eight in Little Athletics, an Australian activity programme that involves modified athletics events for children aged five to 15. Her mother, Amanda, was a top hurdler. She was a member of the Maccabi team at the ill-fated 1997 Maccabiah Games, which were marred by a bridge collapse at the entrance to the stadium during the opening ceremony.

Amanda Montag was nine weeks pregnant with daughter Jemima when she fell into the Yarkon River following the collapse of a makeshift pedestrian bridge carrying the Australian contingent. Four athletes lost their lives and many were injured.

Then, 20 years later, Jemima was the flag-bearer at the 2017 Maccabiah Games.

Amanda and her husband, Ray, were at the Commonwealth Games finish line on Sunday, along with Jemima’s grandmother and two sisters, cheering her on.

Next on Jemima’s agenda is competing in the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in China in four weeks’ time. After that Jemima has set her sights on the Tokyo Olympics, taking place in 2020.

While there is still some debate within the Jewish community in Australia, nobody can remember a Jewish gold medallist in any sport. The only names that have emerged are David Lowenstein, who won a silver medal in weightlifting in 1986 and Ivan Katz, who won silver in weightlifting in 1978.

 

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