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Beijing’s Jewish athletes

NEW YORK — Despite the continuing COVID chaos and the mounting protests about China’s human rights record, the 2022 Beijing Olympics are proceeding on schedule.

The Beijing games begin Feb. 4 and run through Feb. 20. The Paralympics will be March 4-13.

L-r: Alexei Bychenko, David Warsofsky, Jason Brown, Mollie Jepsen, Emery Lehman. (Getty)

Jason Brown, Figure skating, USA

The most well-known Jewish athlete competing in Beijing is 27-year-old figure skater Jason Brown.

He competed in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, winning bronze in the team event with team USA, but narrowly missed competing in 2018 in Pyeongchang (he went as the team’s first alternate).

But Brown is back, and qualified after skating to the theme from “Schindler’s List” at the US Figure Skating Championships last month.

The “Schindler’s List” music is heard regularly in international competition. German figure skater Nicole Schott skated to it at the Olympics in 2018, as did Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya in 2014.

Hailey Kops and Evgeni Krasnopolski, Pairs skating, Israel

A year ago, 19-year-old New Jersey native Hailey Kops was studying in a Jerusalem seminary on her gap year before heading to nursing school, thinking her competitive skating days were over.

Just over six months later, she’s heading to Beijing. She teamed up with Evgeni Krasnopolski, a 33-year-old Olympic veteran who was born in the Soviet Union and moved to Israel when he was three years old. He will be Israel’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony on Feb. 4.

Emery Lehman, Speed skating, USA

Emery Lehman’s first love was hockey, which he picked up at six years old, growing up in the Oak Park Chicago suburb. A few years later, his Jewish mom convinced him to give speed skating a try, and he excelled. (He hasn’t given up hockey, either — in college at Marquette University, he played defense for their club hockey team.)

He competes in the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races.

He wrote on Instagram after qualifying for Beijing, “About time. I’m one of the old guys on the team.” He’s 25.

Taylor Gold, Snowboarding, USA

For Taylor Gold, 28, this is his second Olympics.

At the 2018 Games, his younger sister Arielle Gold — also a snowboarder — won bronze in the women’s halfpipe event. Arielle retired and won’t be competing this Olympics cycle.

The Golds were born and raised in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Their father, Ken, was a professional moguls skier. In Beijing, Gold will be one of 14 athletes from Colorado.

Josh Ho-Sang, Hockey, Canada

Josh Ho-Sang had an impressive debut with the Toronto Marlies, the top affiliate team of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Ho-Sang, 26, is Jamaican and Chinese on his father’s side and Russian-Jewish and Swedish on his mother’s side.

Since the NHL announced that its players will not participate in the Games, it has left Olympic roster spots open for rising stars like Ho-Sang. Could Beijing be the start of Ho-Sang’s NHL career?

Alexei Bychenko, Figure skating, Israel

Bychenko was born in Kiev, Ukraine. In 2010, he became an Israeli citizen and started skating under the Israeli flag.

Bychenko competed for Israel in the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics, and the 33-year-old is set to return to the Olympic stage this February.

He will skate to “Words” by Israeli singer-songwriter Harel Skaat for his short program and the theme from “Pirates of the Caribbean” for his free skate.

Devon Levi, Hockey, Canada

Devon Levi, a 20-year-old goalie from the Jewish Montreal suburb of Dollard-Des-Ormeaux, attended Hebrew Foundation School.

He currently plays for Northeastern University Huskies.

He has notched nine shutouts so far this season, helping the Huskies achieve a 16-5-1 record.

It’s unclear whether he will be the starter on the Olympic team, as the two other goaltenders are both older and more experienced.

Noa and Barnabas Szollos, Skiing, Israel

Thoughts of Israel usually involve blazing desert sunlight and humidity — not skiing.

But Israel’s “ski siblings,” who were born in Budapest and train in Austria, are three: Noa, Barnabás and Benjamin. Benjamin did not make the Beijing cut.

Their father Peter used to ski professionally for Hungary before earning Israeli citizenship.

Jason Demers, Hockey, Canada

The third Jewish player on Canada’s hockey team is Jason Demers, a 33-year-old defenseman who spent time in the NHL but currently plays in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

Demers made his NHL debut in 2009, playing for the San Jose Sharks, and represented Team Canada for the first time in 2013 during an NHL lockout.

Mollie Jepsen, Para alpine skiing, Canada

Mollie Jepsen medaled in four out of the five events she competed in at the 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympics.

The West Vancouver, British Columbia native was born missing fingers on her left hand, and competes under the LW6/8-2 classification, for skiers with an upper extremity issue. This means she skis with only one pole.

Since her Paralympic debut, she was also diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and missed an entire season. But she has had a remarkable comeback season ahead of the 2022 Paralympics.

David Warsofsky, Hockey, USA

Warsofksy, 31, has played for four NHL teams, including the Colorado Avalanche, but now plays in Germany for ERC Ingolstadt — he’s another player benefiting from the NHL’s decision not to let their players enter the Games.

He is married and has a one-year-old son. When he’s not competing in Germany, he resides in Denver.

Vladislav Bykanov, Speed skating, Israel

Vladislav “Vlad” Bykanov, like many of his fellow Israeli winter Olympic teammates, was born in the former Soviet Union, in Ukraine.

He moved to Israel in 1994, at age 5, and now splits his time between Kiryat Shmona, Israel, and Heerenveen, in the Netherlands.

In the 2014 Winter Olympics, he was given the honor of serving as Israel’s flag bearer in the opening ceremony.

He skates in the 500 meter, 1,000 meter, and 1,500 meter races.

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