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Israel's female Kenyan-born long-distance runner to hold Israeli flag at Paris Olympics 2024 ceremony

Lonah Chemtai Salpeter competing in the Women's Marathon at the IAAF World Championships in Oregon, USA, July 18, 2022. (Photo: European Athletics)

The Kenyan-born Israeli runner, Lonah Chemtai Salpeter was chosen to be Israel’s female flag bearer at the upcoming Paris Olympics opening ceremony on July 26, according to Israel's Ynet news. She is reportedly scheduled to hold the Israeli flag along with Ukrainian-born Israeli shooter Sergey Richter, a top candidate for male flag bearer.

Salpeter (35), who was born in a tiny village in the African nation, is considered to be one of the world’s best long-distance runners and one of Israel’s leading medal candidates.

As a child, she grew up without running water and used to run 16 km (10 miles) round trip between her home and the school.

Salpeter, who was not born Jewish, arrived in Israel in 2008 when she worked as a nanny for the children of the Kenyan ambassador. By chance, she met the Israeli running coach Dan Salpeter who spotted her talent, and he later became her husband.

In July 2022, the athlete won the bronze medal at the World Athletic Championships women’s marathon in Eugene, Oregon. Africa dominated the top slots during the competition, with the Ethiopian athlete Gotytom Gebreslase winning the gold medal and Judith Jeptum Korir from Kenya securing the silver medal.  

Israeli broadcaster Miri Nevo, impressed with Salpeter, noted that she expressed “understanding and acceptance that ‘it’s all part of a journey … that, at the end, it will be OK.’ As an athletic prodigy and a true champion, Lonah demonstrated the ability to turn every hardship into leverage towards the next achievement, a better result, a quality run.”

“We can imagine her doing it again, maybe winning the gold in the Paris Olympics,” Nevo added.

In addition to her bronze victory in 2022, Salpeter was just 21 seconds away from a second bronze medal the same year at an international running competition in the Hungarian capital, Budapest.

The year prior, Salpeter was one of the four leading running candidates at the Tokyo Olympics 2021, however, she collapsed due to the unprecedented heat and was unable to continue in the competition.

This year’s Israeli Olympic team is seen as the best in the country’s history. Sports experts estimate the team could potentially win between four and five medals at the Paris Olympics.

The Israeli team gathered on Tuesday for a final meeting at the Wingate Institute, an internationally respected sports institute near Netanya.

"This is a significant milestone in Israel's journey to the Olympic Games, as the athletes come together before representing us on the world stage," Israel's Olympic Committee announced in an official statement.

In addition to Salpeter, other potential Israeli medalists include the windsurfer, Sharon Kantor, the judokas Raz Hershko and Inbar Lanir, as well as the gymnastics star Artem Dolgopyat.

In December, Dolgopyat announced he would auction his gold medal from the World Championship to support Israel's southern border communities that were devastated during the Oct. 7 Hamas invasion and attack

"Today I know that Israeli society is important beyond anything else. I won’t lie, it’s not easy for me, but I feel that through the auctioning of the medal, I can truly give back to the country that has given me so much," Dolgopyat said.

The ongoing war between the IDF and the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza has led to a whopping 50% increase in security expenses to protect Israeli athletes abroad, according to Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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