By David Wiseman
Shahar Peer needs no introduction. She has the highest profile of Israel’s 2012 Olympic team. Tennis is different to most of the other Olympic sports because of the high profile of the WTA Tour.
As such, Shahar is a household name in Israel. After an early elimination in Beijing, she will be keen to do better this time round.
We had the opportunity to speak with her in Tel Aviv this week, during the 2 day Pre-London2012 event.
When did you start in your sport?
I started playing when I was 6 years old. My brother and sister played and I followed them. It was at the Tel Aviv Tennis center.
How did your commitment to sports change your childhood?
It changed it a lot because I spent a lot of time on court and also traveled a lot. My parents made sure I finished school and continued to see my friends as much as I could as it was very important.
What is your first memory of the Olympics?
My strongest memory is of Gal Fridman winning the first and only gold medal for Israel. It was a great thing for Israel and I was very proud and excited about it.
When did you know you wanted to be in the Olympics?
I don’t recall the exact moment, but I always wanted to and felt very proud to represent Israel. For me as an Israeli it was the best feeling to walk at the opening ceremony with the Israeli flag.
Who are your role models?
What was your experience in Beijing like?
It was so much fun; I loved the feeling at the village with all the athletes from all over the world. It was so much fun with all the other Israeli athletes and I felt so proud.
You play on the WTA Tour and you play Fed Cup, how would you compare the Olympics to those?
It’s different in a way that it happens only once in four years. Also that in the WTA and FED cup you are only with tennis players. Here you have a mix of all sports and it makes it very special.
Is there anything about sport in Israel that you wish you could fix?
I would be very happy if we had more professional athletes who could compete at the highest levels and win. I also would be happy if the Israeli athletes had more financial support so they could concentrate just on their sport.
Besides tennis, what sports at the Olympics do you like to watch?
Swimming, athletics especially Usain Bolt, basketball and gymnastics.
Has your life changed in any way as a result of being an Olympian?
I have to say that not really, but I am proud of being an Israeli Olympian.
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?
The main thing is that sport gave me independence. I also had to make a number of hard decisions about my life and career.
We will be following Shahar as she goes for the gold!
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