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Australian figure skater owes big thank you to Israel

Fourth-Place Medal

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Cheltzie Lee may want to send flowers to the Israeli skating federation.

Israeli Tamar Katz qualified for the Olympics -- the first Israeli woman to ever qualify for figure skating -- but her country's rules stipulate that the skater must finish in the top 14 at the European Championships. Katz took 21st. The Israelis gave up their spot, opening the door for Australian Lee.

American-born Katz was gracious in an interview with the New York Times:

“Of course I’m upset after all the hard work and moving far away from my family to train,” Katz said in a telephone interview. “It would have been a great honor to represent my country at the Olympic Games. I wish the Australian skater the best of luck — it’s a wonderful opportunity for her.”

It's odd that a country would have qualifying rules so much more stringent than the international committee. Making the Olympics is difficult enough in and of itself. The U.S. could only suss out two qualifying spots for women this year because the Americans did not skate well enough at the world championships.

Taking Katz out of the Israeli delegation means that only three athletes will represent them in Vancouver, ice dancing siblings Alexandra and Roman Zaretsky and skier Mikahil Ranzin.

The Israeli loss is the Australian gain. Lee, who finished 33rd at the most recent world championships, will have the shot at (unlikely) Olympic gold.

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