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8 Trailblazing Jewish Athletes Team USA Is Celebrating This Hanukkah

Dec. 08, 2015, 2:06 p.m. (ET)

Though a small minority, Jewish athletes have made quite a splash on the Olympic stage. Among them are world-record holders, hall of famers, gold medalists and perfect 10s. To celebrate the eight nights of Hanukkah, take a look at eight of the most accomplished Jewish athletes who have competed for Team USA.

1) Ben Agosto, figure skating
The son of a Puerto Rican father and Jewish mother, Agosto and partner Tanith Belbin are four-time world championship medalists and at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, Belbin and Agosto won the first U.S. ice dance medal (a silver) in 30 years. The only other medal the U.S. had won in ice dance was bronze in 1976.

2) Lillian Copeland, track and field
Born to Polish immigrants in New York, Copeland is widely considered the most successful female discus thrower in U.S. history. She won silver at the Amsterdam 1928 Olympic Games and gold in Los Angeles in 1932; until the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, she was the only American woman to win the discus throw at the Olympics.

3) Mitch Gaylord, gymnastics
At the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, Gaylord led the U.S. men's gymnastics team to its first-ever gold medal in the team event. Gaylord took home three individual medals as well and became the first American to score a perfect 10 at the Olympics.

4) Deena Kastor, track and field
One of the most prolific distance runners in the country, Kastor won bronze in the marathon at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, becoming the first female U.S. medalist in the event in 20 years. She's held U.S. records in numerous distance events and is the current masters marathon American-record holder.

5) Steve Mesler, bobsled
Jewish on his mother's side, Mesler competed at three Olympic Winter Games and is now a member of the United States Olympic Committee board of directors. At his third Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2010, he won gold in the four-man event, breaking a 64-year drought for Team USA.

6) Aly Raisman, gymnastics
Raisman was the most decorated U.S. gymnast at the London 2012 Olympic Games, winning gold in the team all-around and floor exercise and bronze on the balance beam. She is the first U.S. athlete ever to win floor exercise gold at the Olympics and famously performed her routine to the Israeli folk song Hava Nagila.

7) Mark Spitz, swimming
Spitz is unquestionably one of the greatest swimmers of all time, winning gold medals in each of his seven events at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games, a record before Michael Phelps went eight-for-eight in 2008. Spitz also set new world records in each of his events, a feat no other swimmer has ever accomplished in a single Games.

8) Dara Torres, swimming
Torres, whose father was Jewish and who underwent formal conversion to Judaism, is a 12-time Olympic medalist. She is the first and only swimmer to represent the U.S. at five Olympic Games (medaling at each of them), and is the oldest swimmer ever to earn a place on a U.S. Olympic team. Torres is tied with fellow swimmers Natalie Coughlin and Jenny Thompson for the most Olympic medals by a U.S. woman.

Related Athletes

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Ben Agosto

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Deena Kastor

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Steve Mesler

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Aly Raisman

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Dara Torres