Roy Nissany (left) hugs Sylvan Adams (right) at an event in Tel Aviv announcing Nissany's new Formula One role. Roy Nissany (left) hugs Sylvan Adams (right) at an event in Tel Aviv announcing Nissany's new Formula One role. Roy Nissany (left) hugs Sylvan Adams (right) at an event in Tel Aviv announcing Nissany's new Formula One role. (Photo: Shauli Lendner)

Israeli athletes gear up to make headlines in cycling and motorsports

With a Formula One driver and a Tour de France team, Israel is on track for historic year.

Ever since he was a kid, Roy Nissany liked to be behind the wheel. When he was 6 years old, the Tel Aviv native began professional go-kart racing. By 14, he had graduated to cars and joined a junior league. Racing was in his blood; after all, his father was a Formula One test driver.

Nissany's quest to join the family business was realized this week when it was announced that the British-based Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited had hired the 25-year-old to be their official test driver for the 2020 Formula One season.

"Today, I achieved the goal which I set for myself many years ago, to become a Formula One driver," Nissany said. "This is a very exciting moment, not only for me, but also for everyone who has been with me along the way over the years. Formula One reaches a huge audience of fans, and I am so pleased that they will now get to know Israel through the motor racing track."

The news was confirmed by Sylvan Adams, a Canadian philanthropist and sports enthusiast, who moved to Israel a few years ago. Adams, who has been working with the young driver for about a year, is serving as president of the Roy Nissany F1 racing team. "Sports breaks barriers," Adams told From the Grapevine during an interview at one of his sports facilities in Jerusalem. "It's a language unto itself. And I'm a big believer in sports being a way Israel can reach out to the rest of the world."

Adams grew up in Montreal playing sports as a kid – mostly hockey and Canadian football – and transitioned into cycling later in life. He began competing professionally at the age of 41, winning several races along the way. He helped establish the Israeli Cycling Academy in 2014, which has sparked a renaissance of the sport. They have opened up cycling schools across the country and helped construct Israel's first velodrome. In the spring of 2018, Jerusalem became the first city outside of Europe to host a leg of the Giro d'Italia, one of cycling's three major races.

Fans in Jerusalem cheer on Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands during the first stage of the 101st Giro d'Italia in 2018. Fans in Jerusalem cheer on Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands during the first stage of the 101st Giro d'Italia in 2018. (Photo: Luk Benies / AFP via Getty Images)

But perhaps their most impressive feat will come this summer when, for the first time ever, an Israeli team will be participating at the Tour de France. The team of 30 riders includes two of Israel's fastest cyclists – Guy Niv and Guy Sagiv. "Roy Nissany is a longtime friend of the two Israeli 'Guys,' making this partnership extra sweet," Adams said.

David Wiseman is the co-founder of Follow Team Israel, a popular Facebook group that shares the stories of Israeli athletes. "These announcements indicate what is possible and that is the impossible," he told From The Grapevine. "Roy Nissany and the cycling team are going to be incredible role models for those in Israel and wonderful ambassadors for those outside Israel."

In addition to the Formula One and cycling debuts, 2020 looks to be a big year overall for Israeli athletics. The country is set to send their largest-ever delegation to the Summer Games in Tokyo in sports as varied as equestrian to rhythmic gymnastics. The Israeli baseball team will be one of only six countries competing for the gold medal. And in June, 19-year-old Israeli basketball phenom Deni Avdija is expected to be chosen as one of the early picks at the NBA Draft.

"It's going to be a year when Israel's athletes look to make their dreams come true and, in turn, inspire the whole country and people all over the world with their heroics," said Wiseman. "We're so proud of our athletes – they sacrifice so much for us and deserve all the support and love we can give them."

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Israeli athletes gear up to make headlines in cycling and motorsports
With Formula One driver Roy Nissany and a Tour de France team, Israel is on track for a historic year in sports.