Jillian Schwartz ‘doing the athlete thing’ for Israel

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Jillian Schwartz ‘doing the athlete thing’ for Israel

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:04 pm

http://lakeforest.suntimes.com/sports/1 ... cs-in.html

Lake Forest’s Schwartz ‘doing the athlete thing’ for Israel at Summer Olympics in London
By Bill mclean Contributor April 3, 2012 11:16PM

Lake Forest's Jillian Schwartz, who will represent Israel in the 2012 Summer Olympics, competes at last year's World Championships.
Updated: April 7, 2012 1:19PM

Jillian Schwartz made it sound so simple.

The 1997 Lake Forest High School graduate resides in Jonesboro, Ark., these days.

“My life pretty much is watching movies, reading books and doing the athlete thing,” the 32-year-old Schwartz said.

Millions watch movies and read books.

But not too many do what Schwartz does when she’s not sitting in a theater or turning a page.

The world’s best pole vaulters will convene in London this summer to vie for gold, silver and bronze prizes. They’ll be called Olympians.

Schwartz will be one of them.

Eight years ago she represented the United States at the Summer Olympics in Greece.

She will soar for Team Israel this summer.

“The Israel coaches approached me about competing for their country in 2009,” said Schwartz, a dual citizen who cleared a career-best 15-feet-8 at a meet in Arkansas in ’08.

“I was interested and excited. Israel is an amazing country, a beautiful country. The people there are great, super nice. I’m really looking forward to competing in London. The important thing now is to stay healthy. I’ll also be working on a few technical things.”

The Jillian Schwartz Story starts with a zero. That’s exactly how many times she pole vaulted at LFHS. Girls didn’t begin vaulting at Illinois high schools until 2001, four years after Schwartz finished sixth on vault at the state gymnastics meet her senior year. She took fifth in the event as a junior at State.

Schwartz executed her very first track and field vault as a freshman at Duke.

“All I remember about that was that it was outdoors, definitely outdoors,” Schwartz said. “I had done some pole-vault drills to prepare, so I was ready. I wasn’t scared.”

Schwartz also remembers when she and Sarah Spain, another former LFHS standout athlete, wanted to try pole vaulting in high school.

“Nobody would let us try it because of a liability issue,” said Schwartz.

Schwartz was sponsored by Nike after her Duke years and competed all over the world. She met her current vault coach, former men’s world-record holder Earl Bell, at an Earl Bell camp in Arkansas when she was a senior at Duke.

Three years after her final college track meet Schwartz wore the red, white and blue at the 2004 Games in Athens. A stress fracture in her right foot – her launching foot – kept her out of medal contention.

She was the United States’ No. 4 women’s pole vaulter at the U.S. Olympic Trials in ’08. Only the top three got to compete in Beijing.

Schwartz placed 11th with a 14-7 height in February at the World Indoor Championships in Turkey.

“I’ve seen her compete and she’s so fluid, makes pole-vaulting look so easy,” said North Central College freshman trackster Ofelia Carmichael (LFHS, ’11). “I think it’s great she comes back to Lake Forest at times and trains at the school’s track.

“I’m so proud of someone from little Lake Forest doing what Jillian is doing.”

Carmichael’s younger sister, Scouts senior Carolina Carmichael, finished runner-up in the pole vault (12-3) at last spring’s Class 3A state track and field state meet in Charleston.

Schwartz occasionally asks Carolina Carmichael for updates about the team’s vaulters. LF junior Carly Schmidt took fifth in the pole vault (11-9) at State last spring.

“Jillian is so supportive,” said Carolina Carmichael. “And what she has done as an athlete is amazing for somebody who didn’t vault until she got to college.

“Crazy,” she added. “It’s crazy how well she is doing.”

What will Robin Straus do in early August, when the women’s pole vault segment will be staged at the Summer Olympics in London?

LF’s gymnastics coach will be glued to a TV, as Schwartz sprints, plants and soars.

“She was all power and a super hard worker as a gymnast,” recalled Straus. “The Jillian Schwartz years were some great years for our program. I will always remember how driven she was, how motivated she was.

“She was,” Straus added, “a combination of hard work, intelligence, sweetness and being all about the team. What I love is that she continues to be a fabulous role model for so many of our athletes at Lake Forest.”

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Re: Jillian Schwartz ‘doing the athlete thing’ for Israel

Unread postby rainbowgirl28 » Thu Aug 02, 2012 4:49 pm

http://www.suntimes.com/sports/14166629 ... y-low.html

Chicagoan Jillian Schwartz vaults for Team Israel, not USA
BY RICK TELANDER rtelander@suntimes.com August 1, 2012 10:32PM

LONDON — Jillian Schwartz is speaking, but I tell her to wait a moment, please. It’s hard to hear with that helicopter in the sky not far above us here in the Olympic Village.

She smiles courteously, then picks up when the helicopter moves off slightly and the noise has diminished.

‘‘So, I ran hurdles and did sprints and a little bit of long-jumping and high-jumping in high school,’’ the blonde, green-eyed, 32-year-old pro athlete says. ‘‘Sarah Spain was a year younger than me on the track team, and we would always see the boys pole-vaulting, and it looked like so much fun. So one day we were messing around with it a little bit, and we were told we couldn’t do it because of liability reasons.’’

Because they were girls.

This was Lake Forest High School in 1997, and Schwartz and teammate Spain, now a sportscaster in Chicago, were outstanding track athletes. Indeed, both would go to the Illinois state finals in different events, and Schwartz likely would have won the 100-meter hurdles if she hadn’t hit a hurdle in the semis, fallen and broken her foot. She had the fastest time going into the meet, but, as she knows, that doesn’t mean squat in the wild world of track.

The helicopter has circled around again, and I ask her to take another pause.

There is irony or symbolism or maybe just black remembrance in the disruption of our dialogue. Schwartz, who competed for the United States in the Beijing Olympics, now is a member of the Israeli team — a pole vaulter for the country, with dual citizenship and a belief in her Jewish heritage.

And the helicopter is part of the super-tight security that now radiates out over the Olympics like a fog, due in large part to the massacre of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Five of those terrorists were killed by West German police in a shootout, and two of the other three, later released from prison in a hostage swap, were eventually killed, along with others involved in the ‘‘Black September’’ massacre, allegedly by Israeli secret agents.

To say the attack on Jewish athletes from Israel, a nation that many extremists believe should not even exist, changed the Olympics for all time is no understatement.

Yet here we sit on this lovely, sun-dappled day, a young athlete from Chicago and myself, as competitors and coaches from all nations walk casually and cheerfully by. That Schwartz had to go to Duke as an injured hurdler to finally be allowed to pole vault is an unfairness that, while hurtful, pales when compared to injustices past and ever to come.

‘‘So, 1998 was the first year for the NCAA to have women’s pole-vaulting as a main event,’’ Schwartz says. ‘‘That was my freshman year. I had been a gymnast all the way through high school, so coming from a gymnastic background probably helped me a lot.’’

She took to the event, passing her time at the lengthy sit-around-and-wait meets by reading, as pal Spain, a heptathlete by this time at Cornell, puts it, ‘‘the dumbest, girliest magazines like Cosmo and Vogue, right until it was time to jump.’’

At Duke, Schwartz set the school outdoor and indoor pole vault records (14-2 and 13-5 ¼), and after graduating with a degree in economics in 2001, she decided to make pole vaulting her career, turning pro and making the 2004 US Olympic team, along with superstar and American pioneer Stacy Dragila.

Schwartz competed in the Athens Games, but did not place. In 2008 she cleared her personal best height — 4.72 meters — but also failed to make the U.S. Olympic team that would compete in Beijing, finishing fourth in the trials.

Then came Israel.

‘‘In 2009 I competed in the Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv, and I won, and later officials asked me if I wanted to compete for Israel. I pretty much took the rest of the year off, but I said yes.’’ One of the main reasons was that the United States is loaded with top women vaulters these days.

In theory, Israel is a nation that embraces all Jews as citizens. But it is not always so easy to prove who is or is not of Jewish heritage.

‘‘If you’re Jewish you can get citizenship,’’ Schwartz says. ‘‘I think they’re always looking. You know, last names. What you look like.’’

She had never been to Israel before the Maccabiah Games, but says now that it is ‘‘very meaningful to be there.’’

Which brings us back to that noise overhead.

It’s a little scary,’’ she says of the heritage she has bought into. Her white warmup reads ‘‘TEAM ISRAEL’’ on the back. ‘‘I don’t even know what to say about it. It’s crazy.’’

It is. The Israeli Olympic team has its own security force with it, and the athletes have been told to let the guards know where they are going, what they are doing, if they ever leave the village.

‘‘I can’t imagine it,’’ Schwartz says of the massacre, of the horror in the world. ‘‘A month ago in Israel we had a memorial to the Munich Games. It was a short one, but it was amazing. Because it was really emotional. For those things to have happened at the Olympics, where everybody is supposed to be about community and friendship . . .’’

The massacre happened seven years before Jillian Schwartz was born. May she never live to see anything like it.

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Re: Jillian Schwartz ‘doing the athlete thing’ for Israel

Unread postby fishman4god » Fri Aug 03, 2012 6:23 pm

Cool. amazeing and good for Jilian. It still blows me away when you think of an athlete of this caliber competing for another country becuse the old red white and blue is so loaded with talent! Go Team USA and Go Team Israel! Gotta love Olympic years!!!!!

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