“Just before my 12th birthday, my father signed me up for judo lessons. I was a bit clumsy – the kind of kid who drops plates and runs into things. I was a good student in school, played chess and the synthesizer. But my father thought I needed a sport for balance. He was right,” says Alex Nerush, who recently completed the first year of a Master's program in chemistry at the Institute. “Looking for a class in my hometown of Rishon Lezion, I got to the studio of Pavel Musin (partner and coach of Alice Schlesinger, who competed in the London Olympics). Meeting Pavel changed my life. He taught me that if you stick to your goals, you can make your dreams come true. I dreamed of being a real athlete, and I became one.”
By 15, Alex had a place on Israel’s Junior National Judo Team, participating in various competitions and winning a number of them. In 2001, he was the Israeli Youth champion. “Over holidays, when everyone else was at the beach or in front of the TV, we were attending intensive training camps. I later served in an active army unit, but my army training did not compare to those judo camps.”
“Participating in a sport is very important to me. My career is science, but I will always be involved in sports. At the Institute, I have found an atmosphere of striving for achievement that I can identify with. Everyone here aspires to discover, to investigate, to bring improvement to people’s lives.”
Alex was just three when he came to Israel from the former Soviet Union with his parents and older sister and brother. His father, a mathematician, works as a programmer, and his mother has a position in medical research in Assaf Harofeh Medical Center. Alex had a very Israeli upbringing: He only learned to speak Russian fluently in university.
Throughout his undergraduate studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Nerush continued to compete on the students’ judo team. Now, he is back at the Rishon Lezion studio where he first took judo lessons as a child. “I am training regularly and competing,” he says. “I still feel I have heights I can aspire to reach in judo.”