A.J. Edelman is a bodybuilder, MIT engineering graduate, and Israeli Olympian.
At the Winter Olympics’s host city of Peyong Chang, South Korea, AJ will race as a skeleton slider.
Edelman has sought physical competition all his life, but could never find an outlet he truly excelled at. He was a club hockey goalie at MIT, and when he graduated, began work as a product manager at Oracle. In 2014 he competed as a bodybuilder at the Annapolis Drug Free Bodybuilding Championships, and after migrating to Israel, decided to turn his newfound muscularity into a full-time job. He was born in Boston but said he has several family connections to Israel.
He proposed himself as an athlete to the Israeli Olympic organizers. At first, he pursued bobsled but realized it would be difficult to find a teammate he could trust. So he opted for skeleton instead. Skeleton is essentially a one-man bobsled race performed on a flat board instead of in a cylindrical sled. Edelman said he’s self-taught from watching skeleton videos on YouTube. He quit the Oracle gig to train full-time. It turns out, with just a little bodybuilding experience, anyone can be an Olympian in Israel!
Edelman competed at the 2016 and 2017 World Championships. His best finish was 33rd, and he made the 30-man Olympic field as the last outright qualifier.
Edelman is also making a special statement with his custom helmet for the event. On it is painted the biblical figure Samson, in his final act of breaking the temple pillars. Above the image waves the flag of Israel.
“The breaking of the pillars represents accomplishing the impossible dream,” said Edelman to NBC.
Edelman said the International Olympic Committee allowed his helmet, determining that it is not a political or religious statement. The Times of Israel dubbed him with the nickname “The Hebrew Hammer.”
Israel has only sported 13 previous Winter Olympians, each one since 1994 of course. They competed in Alpine skiing, figure skating and short track speed skating.
This is an interesting case of a man with modest bodybuilding experience taking advantage of a bizarre opportunity. If anyone out there has a good physique, Jewish ancestry, and need of employment, perhaps the Israeli Olympic team is worth a look!