As far as sports go, badminton isn’t the most mainstream! Thus it would come as little surprise that Misha Zilberman is the first badminton player to represent Israel at the Olympics. Somewhat of a prodigy, he picked up the game from all the hours he spent as a child watching his mother play. Once he turned 12, he went from spectator to competitor.
Five years later, he won his first Israeli national singles championship. Of the 40 players competing in the men’s singles, Zilberman is ranked 33.
When did you start in badminton?
My mother played and I started to come and watch her in the hall when I was around 3-4. At the age of 12, I became a professional player.
How did your commitment to the sport change your childhood?
I didn’t have a lot of friends at school, but I had a lot at the badminton hall I was always happy to go practice and to meet up with my friends there.
When did you know you wanted to be in the Olympics?
At that moment!
Who are your role models?
When I was younger, my role models were the top badminton players, but for the last 5-6 years, my role model is my mom who is always fighting until the end. She never gives up.
How hard has it been to combine high-level sport and your studies?
It is very difficult. I am lucky that my school friends are happy to help me and to share with me material that I miss.
What was your biggest challenge prior to getting to the Olympics?
My biggest challenge prior to getting to the Olympics was that I knew that I must climb up the rankings, at the start of the season there were other players better than me. My badminton improved and I ended up making the final at Tahiti Challenge Tournament, this allowed me to get my ranking to where it needed to be.
Is there anything about sport in Israel that you wish you could fix?
I wish I could fix the way Israel supports her Olympic athletes. I received assistance from The Israeli Olympic Committee for only half of the season, the other half I paid for and supported my training on my own. The assistance received only covers the six months prior and post Olympics, so for three years everything is out of pocket, my pocket. Sponsors in Israel are there for football and basketball – not so much for an individual sport like badminton.
Besides badminton, what sports at the Olympics do you like to watch?
Track and field
Sport has given you many opportunities and experiences that otherwise you would never had had – what would you say to Israeli kids about sport and what it can give them. Any advice?
Sports will affect your life in a positive way!
How do you think being an Olympian will change your life?
To be the first Israeli to play badminton at the Olympics is an honor and a great feeling.
I hope that being an Olympian will help me find a sponsor, which in turn will allow me to continue playing right through until the next Olympics.