A figure skater, Shmerkin was born in Ukraine, emigrated to Israel and became the country's first athlete to compete in the Winter Olympics. At the 1994 Winter Olympics, Shmerkin finished a respectable 16th in the male individual figure skating event.
His success in 1994 prompted the Israeli Olympic Committee to induce other potential Winter Olympians to compete internationally. At the 1998 Nagano Games, Shmerkin was joined by skating team Sergei Sakhnovsky and Galit Chait. Michael finished 18th (Chai) at the 1998 Winter Games.
Israel's best figure skater, Shmerkin represented the Soviet Union in the World Junior Championships before emigrating to Israel; he was brought over in 1991 as part of UJA's Operation Exodus. After his triumphant performance at the 1994 Olympics, Michael finished 11th at the World Championships in both 1995 and 1996. Shmerkin, a showman who plays to the crowd, has put Israeli skating on the map and was consistently in the top 20 in the world during the mid-1990s. In 1997, he finished 14th at the European Championships and 15th at the Worlds; he then finished 13th at the 1998 European Championships. In 2001, Shmerkin finished 20th at the European Championships and 33rd in the Worlds. Although his world ranking has lowered in the past couple of years, his influence as a role model for Israeli skaters cannot be overstated.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Feb. 5, 1970
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Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)