This summer’s Maccabiah Games boasted several significant ‘firsts’. For one thing, the opening ceremony for the “Jewish Olympics” returned to Jerusalem for the first time since 2001. For another, the 2013 games marked the first time in the competition’s 81-year history that Equestrian was added to the competitive program. It was also the first time that award-winning American-Israeli show jumper Danielle Goldstein was able to represent Israel within its borders.

Though Goldstein, a resident of Florida, became an Israeli citizen in 2010 and has been competing for the “blue and white” in major international equestrian competitions since 2012, her competition schedule, including top-tier show jumping championships around the world, had brought her everywhere but Israel. That changed when the Israeli Equestrian Federation named Goldstein the team captain of Team Israel’s equestrian squad for the Maccabiah Games. Coached by Goldstein, the talented Israeli squad won Team Gold, and riders Asaf Sturman and Noam Dayan clinched Individual Silver and Bronze medals, respectively.

“Coaching Team Israel was an exhilarating experience. I was thrilled with the opportunity and subsequently with the results,” said Goldstein. Through ‘Team Israel’, Goldstein intends to plant the seeds for a robust equestrian culture in Israel, and envisions building an equestrian center to train riders and establish a framework for increased equestrian education. Though she knew from a very young age that show jumping would be a driving force in her life, it wasn’t until Goldstein’s first visit to Israel for her Bat Mitzvah that her nationalistic dreams came into focus.

“It was an overwhelming experience. I was inspired, and I have felt this connection to the country and the people ever since.” From that point on, show jumping was not just about Goldstein and her horse – it was about striving to one day represent Israel in her beloved sport. Goldstein, now 28, seeks to reach out to other Jewish athletes across the globe to ride for Israel. Her ultimate goal is to help to organize a team of talented show jumpers to represent Israel at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, being the first equestrian riders from the country to participate in the Olympics.

“There are some exceptional Jewish show jumpers spread around the world. I hope that we can pool our resources and send a small but strong team to represent Israel at the Olympics,” explains Goldstein excitedly. In August, Goldstein recorded a personal first when she competed in the esteemed European Championships under the Israeli flag. She performed brilliantly under pressure and returned from Denmark ranked among the world’s top show jumpers.

As Goldstein’s star continues to rise and the pieces fall into place for Team Israel, an Olympic medal appears to be within reach.

“The success of the Israeli show jumping team at the Maccabiah Games helped establish a precedent – we have a team and are capable of results. We are on the brink of some really great things.”

by Elie Klein

Published on: Sept 8, 2013

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