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Out para rowing champion Moran Samuel named flag bearer for Israel in Tokyo

A bronze medalist at Rio in 2016, Samuel looks to add a gold to an already golden life at upcoming Paralympics.

Israelis’ Appearance At Head Of The Charles A Historic Moment
Moran Samuel, shown here preparing for the 2014 Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, is looking ahead to adding Paralympic medals in Tokyo.
Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Moran Samuel, the para rower from Israel, has been one to watch on the water, and a person to listen to off of it, as a leader in expanding adaptive sports. Beginning with her breakthrough fifth-place effort at the Paralympics in London in 2012, to her World Rowing Championship in 2015, to earning bronze in Rio in 2016, she’s garnered attention heading into the Tokyo Paralympic Games.

In Tokyo, she’ll be in the lead from the Opening Ceremony. Samuel joins boccia player Nadav Levi as Israel’s flag bearers for the Paralympic Games.

“Excitement! Pride! Respect!,” Samuel beamed from her Instagram page. “Thank you for the privilege, together with the unique and special Nadav Levy, to march at the head of the delegation and raise our flag.”

Outsports profiled Samuel prior to the Rio Paralympics in 2016. A promising basketball player on the Israeli national team before suffering a spinal stroke, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down in 2006, she rebounded and found a new path in sports. She started as a wheelchair basketball athlete, and later as a rower where she advanced to the elite class of the sport.

She is also an out married lesbian. In 2016 she headed to Rio just six months after the birth of their son, Arad. Going into those Paralympics as a defending world champion, she left Rio with a hard-fought bronze in an upset loss.

Since Rio, she added to the family cheering section. She and her wife, Limor, had their second child, daughter Rom, in 2018.

For the athlete, being a mom hasn’t diminished the fire to compete. If anything, being a mom has added fuel.

“I realised with my children that being able to be flexible kind of makes you mentally stronger to deal with changes, unexpected things, that happens even in sport,” she stated in an interview with the International Paralympic Committee. “For me, it is easier to concentrate in training and to be focused when I’m competing when I know they are close. I need my family.”

Moran Samuel
Samuel has been at the top of the world, but she’ll have to climb over a competitive field in PR1 single sculls to gain gold in the upcoming Paralympic
Detlev Syeb

Samuel may be a 39-year-old mother of two, but she still has the fire to win in PR1 single sculls, as additional world and European championship medals since Rio will attest.

She also has a rival to chase in Norwegian rower Birgit Skarstein. Since being nosed out of the medals by Samuel in Rio, Skarstein has won every World Cup rowing event since.

But if ever an athlete could rise to occasions on the fly, it’s Samuel. Her history as a two-sport athlete points to it.

She’s even shown grace in the face of adversity on the podium. After she was presented her gold medal at a pre-Paralympic tuneup event in 2012, there was a problem: The organizers didn’t have a recording of the Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem.

Samuel calmly asked for the microphone, and proceeded to sing it beautifully.

You can find Outsports’ list of publicly out LGBTQ athletes at the Tokyo Paralympic Games here.