Israeli rower Moran Samuel will be one of the favourites to finish on the podium at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio but one thing about the athlete’s personal life that very few people in the sporting world would know is that she is openly lesbian.
The rower will be aiming for medals at Rio in the women's arms and shoulders single sculls event. Samuel had first competed at the Games in London four years ago where she finished at an impressive fifth place and missed out on the bronze medal by just one second.
The 34-year old spoke to Outsports about her journey which started in London. “I was a very young rower in London. I didn't have the experience of training and competitions that I have now. I did the best race I could do there, and I plan to do the same in Rio”.
The Israeli athlete has always been determined in whichever sport she has participated in. Samuel had started to practice both para-rowing and wheelchair basketball representing her country in both the sports. Moran’s journey to the Rio Paralympics started as she trained at the Daniel Rowing Center in Tel Aviv, Israel which helped her win a berth at the Games as she won the 2015 World Rowing Championships in Lac d'Aiguebelette, France.
The rower is in Rio with her wife, Limor Samuel Goldberg, and their six-month-old son Arad. The athlete spoke about how her wife and son have been supporting her. Samuel said, “Limor comes from this world of sport, being a swimmer in her past and working now for the Israeli Paralympic committee, so she understands my needs and can support me.”
The 34-year old added, “Arad is an amazing baby. He knows I need to sleep well so I can perform my best.”
The athlete recalled how they lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Italy as she trained on Lake Varese. Samuel said that she has learned to train with fewer resources and that has helped her. “When I am at home I give 100% to my family, and when I train I do the same. There are limited resources so I have learned to focus on something and not get distracted,” she added.
Rare spinal stroke changed life completely for Moran
At the age of 24, Moran’s life changed when she suffered a rare spinal stroke in 2006. The athlete said that the incident happened when she was hanging laundry and suddenly felt a sharp pain in her back along with trouble in breathing. It was later found that Moran's lower body had been paralyzed.
But fortunately for the Israeli, she was told that she still had options to practice sports. The athlete went into rehabilitation and after completion she joined the Israeli national women's wheelchair basketball team. Samuel has also played on the Israeli all-male team Beit HaLohem.
Moran always wanted to play basketball but was told that to succeed as an elite world athlete, she will need to take up a solo sport. Therefore after her partner Limor’s insistence, Samuel took up the sport of rowing in 2010. It was Limor who taught the sport to her and eventually Samuel fell in love with rowing as well. The 34-year old has made a name for herself in the sport and her exploits led to her being selected as the 2015 World Rowing Para Athlete of the Year.
Samuel said, “I've learned to push my limits and not be afraid of dreaming big dreams, even if they don't all come true. The only way to improve is by making mistakes - by failing, and then overcoming those failures. I compare myself to me if I want to get better.”
The Israeli also said that she hopes that she “can make people become their own role models, because even the most amazing story in the world will not help you to overcome difficulties in life if you don't realize the strength that lies in you.”
She also commented on how the disabled athletes are often considered as inspirational stories only. She said that people like her have much more in store with them than just being a symbol of inspiration. “There's a lot more in my toolbox,” said Moran.
The athlete also said that she has not faced criticism or difficulty of any kind at the international stage being an openly lesbian athlete. She said, “I'm lucky in that manner because everywhere we go, people just take it as it is. If people think differently, they have never showed it or expressed it to our face.”
Moran Samuel will be competing at the Paralympic Games in Rio from 9 September.