As the first Israeli sliding sport Olympian, Adam Edelman felt a duty to build up skeleton and bobsledding in Israel. “If you don’t see your country represented at the Olympics, you don’t know which sports exist or what is possible,” he says.
While Israel has a history in the sport of bobsledding, a 2011 revival of the original team that trained from 2002 until 2006 was unsuccessful because of a lack of infrastructure. “Without adequate resources, there’s no opportunity to build a sustainable program to develop the country’s talent for sliding sports,” Edelman says.
Believing he could help get Israel to the Games a second time and help the country achieve its first medal thereafter, Edelman built a six-year development program called Operation Medal 26. Operated under the Israel Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, the program’s long-term goal is to bring five new bobsled teams to the 2026 Olympics. But since the loss of the program’s major sponsors, the team is being funded by Edelman until they can find more.
PERSPECTIVE ON FAILURE
When the big deal to fund his bobsledding team collapsed, Edelman felt that he’d failed his country. He grappled with his own belief that failure doesn’t exist.
“I thought I’d doomed this team and failed to bring it across the finish line,” he says. “And that’s when it kicked in: Failure is not absolute. I knew I could turn this into a wonderful opportunity. If the sponsorship wasn’t coming through, then I could do it on my own. And although that would make my future incredibly difficult, I knew it could lead to an incredible opportunity.”
Although Toyota and Ariel Property Advisors have contributed 7% to this year’s team budget, the team is still in dire need of more sponsorship to ease Edelman’s personal financial burden, he says.
An entrepreneur at heart — he engineered a system to minimize acute skeleton head-impacts, designing a helmet that rests upon sleds prior to the 2018 Olympic Games — Edelman is also currently working on launching a bobsled apparel company, EYR Apparel, as a way to provide more financially accessible clothing for athletes — and to supplement his team’s budget.
“The past few months have been the most stressful I’ve ever experienced,” he says. “But the way to overcome it is to remember that the mission always has to be greater than oneself.”
Edelman found his now bobsled teammates on the Israeli national rugby team. Chosen for their potential to be excellent push athletes, they will be trained by former rugby player Chance King Doyle, who also has Israeli heritage.
“The team has representation of Arab Israelis, Jews, and the LGBTQ community,” Edelman says. “This team wasn’t pieced together with that intent, and that’s what makes it so special. It has the potential to change the perception of minorities in sports.”
There’s one catch: Neither of the rugby players has tried bobsledding — nor have they ever seen ice. After deferring their schooling and leaving their lives back home, they’re taking an incredible risk, too, Edelman says.
“Their role as push athletes is to push the sled hard and fast. If they hate it, which they could as it’s exceedingly painful, they’ve already put their life on hold.”
THE LAST TRACK STANDING
But they need to train. After analyzing which country would be least likely to shut down outdoor sliding tracks because of the ongoing (and surging) coronavirus pandemic, Edelman decided that his team would begin training in PyeongChang, South Korea.
“The difference between making the Games and not making the Games will be entirely dependent on how much time we can get on the track,” he says. “Lake Placid, Park City, and Canadian tracks are closed to international visitors. Currently, South Korea has the lowest chance at closure. PyeongChang is the last track standing.”
After completing quarantine, Edelman is currently awaiting the arrival of his teammates in PyeongChang. “It’s all going according to plan for now, which is surprising during Covid.”
His advice for those fearful of pursuing their dreams and taking a leap of faith? “What are you fearing failure for? Failure makes you better if you allow it.
“I have failed many times to achieve my goals, but I have no failure.”