Profile of Ilya Podpolnyy, Israel’s kayaking champ

April 20, 2015,

IMG_9633Three years ago, kayaking coach Roei Lev found aspiring Olympian Ilya Podpolnyy crying on the steps of the Jordan Valley Sprint Kayak Club overlooking the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).

Podpolnyy, then 17 years old, had just been disqualified from the Israeli kayaking championship. He couldn’t survive the heats. He didn’t make the start line. He was devastated—and he had no one with whom to share his hopes, his dreams, and his disappointment. His divorced parents still live in Russia, and he has been estranged from his father since making aliyah at age 15.

“I said to him, ‘You’re a young man. I just met you. I saw how you paddled. If you want support and a good family—if you want to get ahead—I recommend you come to the Jordan Valley,’” Lev recalled in an interview with at the kayak club’s lounge on April 18, shortly after this year’s Israeli kayaking championship.

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