Figure skater Adel Tankova (left) and Ronald Zilberberg (right) take a practice skate on Wednesday. Figure skater Adel Tankova (left) and Ronald Zilberberg (right) take a practice skate on Wednesday. Figure skaters Adel Tankova (left) and Ronald Zilberberg (right) take a practice skate on Wednesday. (Photo: Courtesy Yaniv Ashkenazi)

Young skaters to carry on Israel’s ice dancing tradition

Ice dancers Adel Tankova and Ronald Zilberberg will make their Olympic debut in Pyeongchang.

Two of the youngest members of the Israeli Olympic team have one of the longest traditions to follow. The ice-dancing pair of 17-year-old Adel Tankova and 21-year-old Ronald Zilberberg will take the ice in Pyeongchang on Feb. 11 in the short dance as part of the team event. Ultimately, they could skate in four events. The individual ice dance programs will be skated on Feb. 19 and 20.

PHOTOS: Israel at the Winter Olympics

Israel was known as something of an ice dance powerhouse in the 1990s when Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski, brother and sister Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky and Natalia Gudina and Alexei Beletski were all competing at the same time. Chait and Sakhnovski won Israel’s first World Championships medal in 2002 and represented Israel three times at the Winter Olympics.

“We put Israel on the ice dance map," Chait told "There always has to be pioneers, and I think for the skaters it is a little bit easier now because everybody knows Israel and it’s known as a country that has not just one or two skaters, but a whole team."

After she retired in 2007, Chait coached the Zaretskys to a gold medal at the 24th Winter Universiade Games in China and a berth at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. She is now the head coach of the Israeli team, which is based at the Ice House in Hackensack, N.J.

Tankova and Zilberberg teamed up in 2016. Tankova is a former pairs skater. She skated with Evgeni Krasnopolsky before switching to ice dancing.

They are two of 11 athletes from five countries who train at the Ice House headed to Pyeongchang, including Israel’s pairs team Krasnopolsky and Paige Conners, Israeli singles skaters Alexey Bychenko and Daniel Samohin, Canadian veteran ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, Alexia Paganini of Switzerland and Nicole Rajicova of Slovakia.

Adel Tankova (left) and Ronald Zilberberg (right) will participate in ice dancing on Feb. 20. Adel Tankova (left) and Ronald Zilberberg (right) are following in a long Israeli tradition of ice dancing. (Photo: Courtesy Israel's National Olympic Committee)

In Pyeongchang, Tankova and Zilberberg will skate their short dance to "Banca Banca" by E-Type and "Mas Que Nada" from the “Rio” soundtrack. They skate their free dance to music composed by Hans Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz for the “Prince of Egypt.”

The competition will be extremely difficult. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada – silver medalists from Sochi – are expected to skate very well, as are France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, as well as all three U.S. teams.

“Every generation has had its own talents and certain level of technique,” said Chait. “The dance event at last year’s World Championships was something I’ve never witnessed, and it made the competition so unpredictable. The top teams are doing a great job of combining the artistic flow of the programs with the technical side.”

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