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Israeli athletes aiming high at Universiade

Updated: 2023-07-21 09:29
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Delegation keen to experience China's world-renowned facilities, hospitality

JERUSALEM — There was a palpable sense of excitement inside the Olympic Fencing Center in the northern Israeli city of Akko, where athletes were preparing for the Chengdu World University Games in China.

The 31st International University Sports Federation (FISU) Summer World University Games, originally postponed twice due to COVID-19, are set to be staged in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province, from July 28 to Aug 8.

The Israeli delegation comprises a long jumper and his coach, as well as a five-member fencing team led and trained by Lydia Hatuel-Czuckermann, a former Israeli fencer who represented her country at three Olympic Games.

Hatuel-Czuckermann, a member of a renowned family of fencers in Israel, admitted she had high expectations for the event. She mentioned that although she had traveled worldwide for competitions, she had never visited China, except for a brief layover at an airport.

"I was extremely impressed by the organizers' promotional video, the stadiums, the sports halls, and the Universiade Village. It's something I'm genuinely looking forward to," she said.

Hatuel-Czuckermann added that apart from the competition, she had long anticipated experiencing life in China. She expressed her love for Chinese cuisine, including meat, noodles, rice.

Niran Czuckermann, a 21-year-old computer engineering student at Israel's Braude College of Engineering, is another Israeli athlete raring to make his first visit to China.

"I have flown to competitions many times, but only to Europe. Now I have a great opportunity to experience a different culture in China, which is something I always look forward to," he said.

Niran believes the Universiade is akin to the Olympics for students, offering not only sports competitions but also the chance to make new friends.

"As an athlete, I have made sacrifices, such as spending less time with friends, but I have these special moments in life where I get to experience something extraordinary," he said. "I believe the Universiade in China will be one of those moments."

Over the years, Israeli athletes have won a total of 17 medals in the Universiade games, including two in fencing. Hatuel-Czuckermann believes that the current team has the potential to succeed.

"They are motivated young athletes who train diligently, deliver strong performances, and support one another," she said.

Maor Hatuel, who manages the fencing center and trains athletes, has visited China numerous times for business and fencing competitions, including the 26th Universiade in Shenzhen in 2011.

"On my first visit to China, I encountered an entirely different world than what I knew," he said. "Since then, I have developed a genuine love for China, its culture, food, and especially the Chinese people, who are very kind and easy to communicate with."

Chengdu is fully prepared to host approximately 11,000 athletes from around the world, who will participate in 18 sports. The city has recruited around 20,000 volunteers for the Games, with over 1.3 million people signing up as volunteers. Thirteen new venues and facilities have been constructed, while 36 existing ones have been renovated for the event. By April 2021, all sports facilities, including Dong'an Lake Sports Park, where the opening ceremony will take place, were fully operational and ready for use.

As an emerging city on the global stage, Chengdu fulfills multiple roles as an economic powerhouse, a prominent technology and finance hub, and a center of culture and innovation. During the Games, the organizers plan to arrange a series of sporting and cultural activities, including visits to a giant panda sanctuary and the Sichuan Opera, which will showcase the host city's unique features.

"Anyone who has participated in major sports events in China, such as the Summer and Winter Olympics, the Universiade, and the Asian Games, has been amazed and praised the organization. I am greatly looking forward to the upcoming trip," concluded Hatuel-Czuckermann.


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