Former U.S. National Teamer Andi Murez To Represent Israel At 2016 Olympics

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

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By Jeff Commings, Swimming World senior writer

Andi Murez was born and raised in the Los Angeles area, one of the hotspots of American swimming talent. Like many she trained with at Team Santa Monica, she had lofty goals, one of which was swimming in the Olympic Games for the United States.

Murez will realize her dream of competing in the Olympics next year in Rio de Janeiro. But instead of wearing the Stars and Stripes for the United States, she’ll have the Star of David on her swim cap, representing Israel at the world’s biggest sporting event.

She joins other notable U.S.-born swimmers such as Shane Ryan (Ireland) and Santo Condorelli (Canada) who changed sports citizenship in the past year with the aim of competing for other countries in next year’s Olympics. Notably, Tom Kremer has been representing Israel for a few years while holding U.S. dual citizenship. Like Murez, he also represented Stanford University at the NCAA championships.

Unlike most who change sports citizenship, Murez doesn’t have a direct familial connection to her new country, besides some cousins who live in the region. But, FINA rules don’t require a family link to make the transition official, only one year of residence in the new country and a 12-month “dead period” of international competition.

The 23-year-old first considered the notion of representing Israel not long after competing there in the 2009 Maccabiah Games. While swimming for the United States at the 2013 meet for Jewish athletes, she realized a change of nationality would be a great avenue toward achieving her Olympic dream.

“When I was there, I talked to a bunch of swimmers … and tried to figure out if it was possible,” Murez said. “The people I met were so nice and so welcoming that I knew I wanted to go and be a part of the team.”

But Murez had a few quarters of pre-med study left at Stanford, and she waited until she received her degree to officially start the process to change sports citizenship. With the blessing of Stanford head coach Greg Meehan, Murez moved to Israel last fall and began training at the Wingate Institute in Netanya.

The move wasn’t easy on Murez’s parents, who worried constantly about their daughter’s well-being half a world away. She’s now spending some time in the States with family before returning to Israel in the fall to begin the big push for the Rio Olympics.

“I’ve always been just an hour plane ride away when I was at (Stanford),” Murez said. “So, being so far away, they obviously don’t like, and they miss me a lot. But, they were really excited for the opportunity that I was given.”

Murez’s first international meet as an Israeli swimmer will be the European short course championships in December. It’ll be a relatively stress-free competition for her, as it will be held at the Wingate Institute at the state-of-the-art pool built in 2013.

Murez, a two-time NCAA relay champion and multiple All-American, had the potential to fight for a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic swim team. In the summer of 2014, her lifetime best in the 100 free was 54.97, certainly one of the top American times in the event. She swam that time in the prelims of the 2014 nationals, finishing 13th overall with a 55.16. That meet was her final competition while holding U.S. sports citizenship, ending a short but successful span of representing the United States internationally. In addition to competing twice in the Maccabiah Games, she was a double medalist at the 2013 World University Games, earning gold in the 800 free relay and silver in the 400 free relay.

Andi Murez, left, celebrates 400 free relay win at 2012 NCAA championships with Stanford teammates. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Andi Murez, left, celebrates 400 free relay win at 2012 NCAA championships with Stanford teammates. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Under the guidance of coach Leonid Kaufman at Wingate, Murez has seenimprovement in her dryland training, which has translated to speed in the pool. She also credits the training she’s doing with the male backstrokers on the team, such as Yakov Toumarkin, who motivate her every day in sprint sets. At a meet last April that was the first chance for Israeli athletes to qualify for the Olympics, Murez did so in the 50 free with a lifetime best 25.12.

Two weeks ago at the Israeli nationals, Murez also qualified for the Olympics with a lifetime best 54.40 in the 100 free, and just missed out on automatic selection in the 200 free with a 1:59.01.

“It’s nice to have accomplished that goal,” she said. “And now, moving forward, I’m excited to go back in about a month and start training and focus on August. I’m really happy with where my swimming is right now.”

1 Comment

1 comment

  1. avatar
    jim

    Awesome write up! Go girl go!!

Author: Jeff Commings

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Jeff Commings is the Senior Writer for SwimmingWorld.com and Swimming World Magazine. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism and was a nine-time NCAA All-American.

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