I’ve already written quite recently about A.J. Edelman, the first skeleton athlete to compete in the Olympics for Israel in the history of the program (and, unofficially, the first ever Orthodox Jewish man to compete in the Games). But sometimes lost in the story of the athlete is the story of those who helped get them there, and that’s where David Greaves comes in.
By day, Greaves is a fundraising consultant in Winnipeg, but at night, Greaves is coordinating passport and travel arrangements with his colleagues in Israel in his capacity as the president of the country’s Olympic bobsled-skeleton federation. Administrative duties, scouting, recruitment, fundraising—it’s all under his purview.
Greaves was first introduced to the program in 2002, when he was recruited, along with former U.S. Air Force pilot Aaron Zeff and former San Francisco 49ers tight end John Frank, a two-time Super Bowl winner, to form the Israeli bobsled team and begin training for the Turin Games in 2006. Though they twice qualified for the world championships, they came up just short of the big one.
The first of the two championships was in Germany, and Greaves described it this way to Winnipeg’s Jewish newspaper: “I was standing on a hill, with a Star of David on my back, representing Israel in Germany…I felt a sense of pride in being Jewish. And I realized that I felt a passion for my Jewish community in Winnipeg and for Israel and I wanted to serve the Jewish community in some way.”
After failing to qualify for the Games at age 38, you’d think that’s where a married father of two might throw in the towel, but Greaves was undeterred. Though he was sure his competition days were over, he wasn’t over the feeling he got representing Israel in sports. “It was a great honour for me to be able to compete for Israel … it actually changed the trajectory of my life,” Greaves told the National Post.
Since 2006, Greaves has, unpaid, labored to try and build up the program. Time and time again, internal politics made him want to abandon the whole venture, but he knew he couldn’t leave. “It’s a labour of love,” he says.
His labors were rewarded in 2014 with the arrival of Edelman, a fanatical athlete who left a high-paying job at Oracle to train for the Israeli Olympic team. Now, the one-time goalie for MIT’s hockey team prepares to hit the track as Israel’s first ever skeleton athlete (he is just beginning to compete as of this writing of this article).
Greaves sees Edelman’s success not only in his having reached the Games, but more importantly, in what it will do for the future of the Israeli Winter Olympic program. Now the Olympic committee of Israel will look at investing in this program,” he said. “There’s a real future for this program so it’s been worth that labour to get to where we are.”