Zaccardi: ‘The Hebrew Hammer’ set to make Israeli Olympic history

A.J. Edelman

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — A.J. Edelman competed at the 2014 Annapolis Drug Free Bodybuilding Championships. He is an MIT engineering graduate. He is also Israel’s first Olympic skeleton slider.

Edelman will be easy to spot in his racing helmet in PyeongChang next week. It features the biblical figure Samson breaking pillars above the flag of Israel.

“The breaking of the pillars represents accomplishing the impossible dream,” said Edelman, who was born in Boston but said he has several family connections to Israel.

Edelman said the International Olympic Committee allowed his helmet, determining that it is not a political or religious statement. The IOC did not respond to a request for confirmation.

Edelman gained Israeli citizenship in 2016 after spending a summer there in 2006 and an academic year there in 2010.

The Times of Israel noted that his nickname is “The Hebrew Hammer.”

Israel’s 13 previous Winter Olympians — all since 1994 — were in Alpine skiing, figure skating and short track speed skating.

Edelman, a former MIT club hockey goalie and MIT Tech staff columnist, decided while working as a product manager at Oracle in 2013 that he wanted to represent Israel on the Olympic stage.

He considered bobsled – a sport with converts from track and field, football and even bodybuilding – but realized it would be difficult to find a teammate.

So he chose the individual sport of skeleton in 2014. He said he’s self-taught from watching skeleton videos on YouTube, giving up the Oracle gig to train full-time.

Edelman competed at the 2016 and 2017 World Championships with a best finish of 33rd. He made the 30-man Olympic field as the last outright qualifier.