Her life’s obstacle: Ester Roth Shakhamorov in a race against time to get a kidney

Shabbat Shalom Esther Roth Shakhamorov.

“Shabbat Shalom to the whole nation of Israel”

So, how are you?

“There were rumors, I realized that ‘I was dying’ and so on. I was really in a bad shape. I took myself at the last minute and was hospitalized.”

Esther Roth Shakhamorov, Israeli sports legend. She overcame many hurdles in her life, jumped over them with ease. This time she faces a slightly different race – against time.

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How scared are you?

“Look, I’m not afraid for myself. Obviously, every person wants to live, but I also have a responsibility towards my family. You know, suddenly at the age of 67 I became a grandmother and the children are so connected and need me. I have grandchildren – one year old, two years old, three years old, four years old – and suddenly I disappear to them and I feel my obligation to them.”

“They started saying ‘We heard that Esther is dying'”

This week we met her in the transplant department at Beilinson Hospital, with her son Yaron and the medical staff close to her all the time. “I wasn’t feeling at my best. My son said, ‘If you don’t come to the hospital now, I’ll bring an ambulance.’ . ‘No’. And really it was very wise of him to take me. I went through the whole night in the emergency room for tests and I was immediately hospitalized, and then there was a rumor – how come she wasn’t in the race and they were looking for me.”

What rumors were there?

“I realized that they started calling the Olympic Committee, all kinds of people, asking ‘where is Esther. We heard she was dying’, something like that and I got chills. It’s true that my condition wasn’t good, it wasn’t warning and so on, but I was already being treated by the doctors.” .

With her son Yaron in the hospital | Photo: Private

And they immediately told you it was a problem with the kidney?

“I already knew on my own.”

“Going from house to house looking for a kidney?”

Besides the genes that helped her to obtain 7 international gold medals and make her the greatest athlete in Israel’s history, Esther also “inherited” a family kidney disease. Her mother died after a fight with her, and her brother is seriously ill. When it started to break out in her around the age of 50, she knew there was only one way – to win.

“When I got to the point where I needed to be transplanted, there were no solutions in Israel. They told me to ‘go look’, so I didn’t know what to do, I was helpless with all my name and ‘famous’ and that – okay, what do I do? I take a candle and go from house to house Looking for a kidney? There was no solution and there was nothing to do. I tried to look for a donor here, and you have to go through committees. In the committee I found a donor, they didn’t approve him, and someone came to my house and said, ‘There is a solution, I can take you out and do it abroad’, It was just at the last minute.”

“I was born an athlete and I will die as an athlete.” Esther Roth-Shachtmorov, archive | Photo: Yonatan Sindel, Flash 90

Esther underwent her last kidney transplant in 2009 in Azerbaijan: “14 years ago, the kidney functioned even better than it did when I was an athlete.”


“Because I received a kidney from a 40-year-old man, it gave me the strength to train three times a day and do all the jobs I want without getting tired, and do and do and never stop.”

So maybe if you had this kidney at the age of 20, you would have had a better result

“You hit the right spot.”

“Are you summing up my life?”

Esther Roth Shahmarov’s glorious career began in the sixth grade, when she managed to achieve a result of 8.3 seconds in the 60 meters and at the same time beat the fastest boy in the class. With Ido the gym teacher, she came to Amitzur Shapira, a sprinter himself and an athletics coach. After she also beat him in running, he told her: “You will make it to the Olympics” and began to train her. Already at the age of 15, Esther broke the Israeli record in the 100-meter run and in the hurdles, everyone knew that this was just the beginning.

55 years have passed since Mexico 1968, and you are still considered the best athlete in the history of the State of Israel

“So you sum up my life?”

No, we want to go back to the unforgettable moments of glory.

At the age of 16, she was supposed to participate in the 1968 Mexico Olympics, but due to a minor injury, she stayed at home. A moment later she starts preparing for the next Olympics. With two gold medals in the Asian Championships and four in the Israeli Championships, 20-year-old Esther is at the peak of her fitness.

“The greatest disaster that befell me”

Munich 1972 should have been her Olympics, but then the day before the semifinals in the 100-meter hurdles for which she qualified – everything explodes: “It was the biggest disaster that befell me. Suddenly, without preparation.” In the terrorist attack in Munich, 11 members of the Israeli delegation were murdered, including Esther’s personal trainer Amitsur Shapira: “My trainer did not come back. I sit with him on the plane, I sit upstairs, he is in the closet below. How can a young girl absorb this? She can continue living like this ?”

The victims of the Munich massacre, 1972 (Photo: Reuters)

Among those murdered in the massacre of the athletes: the late Amitsur Shapira, Esther’s coach | Photo: Reuters

It’s hard to believe, but during these dramatic moments, even before the magnitude of the disaster became clear, there was someone who turned to Esther and told her that despite everything tomorrow is the semi-final and she should run. “The doctor of the delegation and the director of the delegation approached me and said, ‘We will give you two sleeping pills and we want you to show up for the run tomorrow, we will see – as if through me – that Israel does not surrender, does not give up.’

“I’m just a young girl who receives instructions all my life, and does what she’s told. I didn’t understand this decision – I took the pills, when in my life I don’t take any pills – not for a headache or anything – and I remember in my sleep I had all kinds of sex Such patriotic dreams: ‘I will win for the country’.”

In the end Esther did not participate in the semi-finals, but the Germans insisted on continuing the games: “It was a terrible feeling as if we were being thrown out of the Olympics – they only took a break for one day as a memorial rally and continued as usual.”

The massacre in Munich (photo: ap)

The terrorist raid on the rooms of the Israeli delegation at the Munich Olympics, 1972 | Photo: ap

“A bottle in one hand, a stopper in the other”

But not a woman like Ruth Shakhamorov will give up. After the Munich trauma, she slowly returned to training, for the next Olympics in Montreal. In 1976 she is already married and the mother of a baby and the one who replaces the coach who was murdered in Munich is her husband, Peter Roth: “He gave Ben the bottle and in the other hand a stopwatch and that’s how we train.”

There were also strange trainings.

“Many strange things happened. He was thinking how he was going to get me out of my fixed speed and more, so one day he took a belt and tied me to the motorcycle – ‘Please run’ and I was smeared on the road. And crossing a hurdle – do you think it’s not dangerous? Amitzur had another method , he took an iron irrigation pipe that was in the Maccabiah Stadium at the time and put it up, the iron fence and now you will pass commando – at speed in the middle like this, what do you prefer, here in the head to receive or here in the foot to receive? You need courage for these things, but my significant attribute as an athlete was that I I didn’t tweet, I do what I’m told, sucker.”

The tough training methods, the great diligence, the talent – all these brought Esther great achievements, but they were not enough against the unconventional secret weapon of the competitors from Eastern Europe: “It was a world of drugs, everyone knew it. They took these girls and did what that they want, they were bombarded with things that today we know boosted their results.”

The members of the Olympic Committee and the families of the victims of the massacre of the athletes (Photo: Amit Shisl, Israel Olympic Committee)

The members of the Olympic Committee and the families of the victims of the massacre of the athletes in Munich, archive | Photo: Amit Shisl, Israel Olympic Committee

In Montreal 1976 Esther does the unbelievable: qualifies for the 100 meter hurdles final and comes in sixth place, first among the western athletes. Later it turned out that all five runners ahead of her had taken illegal drugs.

If drug tests were done properly for the girls in front of you, you would get a gold medal!

“I see you came with the intention of stabbing me again, I’ve been being stabbed from every direction all week and you came to stab the last one (laughs).”

In the end, such a glorious career, with such talent and in the end because of things beyond your control you left without a medal.

“I have a feeling that people know this, people know the truth, they know the world we live in. Everyone knows that the Olympics – drugs have already started in Munich, I could also finish in the 100 meters and be there in the final if you take 3-2 from there It was an unreal world, of cheating, and I knew that I was in this world.”

Your record in 100 meters – 11:45, lasted 46 years, actually until five years ago, in 2018 – it’s amazing!

“I didn’t want it to happen like that, I wanted him to actually promote the sport and continue, but they were actually put off by the result. They tried, many tried, and in the end Diana Wiseman managed to do it and I will wish her at the next Olympics that she at least steps up her style.”

Weissman and Ruth Shakhamorov, this evening (Photo: News)

Shakhmarov with Diana Wiseman, who broke her record | Photo: News

The weight that hasn’t changed since the Olympics

do you keep running

“You see with the shoes like this, leaving the house, I run for a while”

With the Crocs? running?

“Yes, running, three times a week like this in the field, outside.”

Even your weight hasn’t changed.

“I have a ticket – when you come to the Olympics, they weigh you – height, weight. I still have the ticket, the same as it was.”

Husband and coach Peter Roth died in 2006 after a failed heart transplant. Esther said then that his death was “Munich 2” for her. For years she worked as a gym teacher at a school in Ra’anana, she achieved Mashuah and won the Israel Prize.

The queue for kidney donation and the request of the family

What kind of patient is she?

Dr. Avitar Nesher, director of the transplantation department at Beilinson Hospital, answers: “Maxima, we all grew up on Esther’s stories. The situation is good. He’s not perfect but he’s good. We may have to start thinking about a repeat transplant at one point or another.”

How long is the waiting list for a kidney transplant in Israel?

Dr. Nesher: “It’s crazy, we’re talking about a wait of between 5 and 8 years, unfortunately people die while waiting for transplants.”

In Israel, the organ donation rate from the dead is one of the lowest in the world. On the other hand, we lead in altruistic donations of living people, good people who decide to save the lives of others by donating a kidney to a family member or someone they don’t even know. Against the background of the family illness, Esther’s children – Yaron and Michal – are in danger of needing a kidney donation themselves. Therefore they cannot contribute to her.

Can a person watching the article say, I want to donate specifically to Esther?

Dr. Nesher: “Definitely yes, people can come and say ‘I want to donate to Esther, to X, to Y'”

Do you want to take advantage of this stage?

Esther: “I will not take advantage of this stage. I will never utter a sentence from my mouth – ‘Donate to me, do to me’. You will never hear that from me. I am now here in their hands. Friends who want to donate and anyone who wants to get something out of themselves – this Not obvious”. What Esther is unable to say, her family members say in her stead: her son Yaron, an athlete who was also an Israeli fencing champion, addressed the public this week and asked to help save his mother by donating a kidney.

Operating room illustration (photo: 123rf)

Esther is waiting for a kidney transplant, again. Illustration | Photo: 123rf

“That I can function for my grandchildren”

She says to the doctor: “It’s thanks to you, you put me on my feet a little bit. I want to admit, I feel like I’m in good hands, I’m in Israel, I’m with the support of the crowd, of everything, it gives me a feeling… a breath of fresh air, I felt Although everything is closed here and you don’t feel a drop of wind, I felt the positive spirit blowing from everyone, the staff here is amazing, professional, I simply have no words to thank.”

So what do we wish you? Except for health of course

“First of all, it’s really number one, that I can function for my grandchildren. My mother was a dialysis patient for many years and she was getting weaker and weaker, so I would ask her what this life on dialysis was worth. She would say, ‘I want to see the grandchildren, I want to see you.’ , now I understand her.”

You want to continue to see the grandchildren in the coming years.

“And a few other things. If I don’t do sports, I don’t want to.”

An athlete since forever.

“Yes, I was born an athlete and I will die as an athlete.”

Research: Yael Yaffe

To donate a kidney to Esther, contact Yaron Roth: [email protected] or WhatsApp 0542468428 or the association “Matanat Haim”.

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