Racism scandal dogs Australia’s only Jewish Olympic athlete

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – The only Jewish athlete on Australia’s Olympic team has been unwittingly drawn into a racism scandal on the eve of the London Games.


Steven Solomon, 19, was selected to represent Australia in the 400m individual run ahead of John Steffensen, a 29-year-old Australian of South African descent, who defeated Solomon at the Olympic trials earlier this year.

But Solomon then won the bronze medal at the World Junior Athletics Championships in Barcelona last weekend with a personal best time. The Sydney resident also anchored the 4×400-meter relay team to fourth place, prompting Athletics Australia officials to call him their “rising star.”

Steffensen, who won a silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and two Commonwealth gold medals, threatened to boycott the London Games after he heard the decision. “I’ve put up with being racially vilified by this federation, being discriminated against on many teams,” he said of Athletics Australia. “You know it would help if I was a different color.”

Solomon, who was captain of the Australian junior football team at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, has not been drawn into the scandal. Both runners have been selected for the 4x400m relay.

Remarkably, Solomon did not have any formal athletics training before 2009. After the Games are over, he will accept a scholarship to study medicine at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.

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