AJ Edelman – Olympic Bobsled and Skeleton

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Created “BobTeam Israel”, targeting to create Israel’s first Winter Olympic Medal
  • Forbes 30 Under 30, Europe 2021
  • 4x Israeli National Skeleton Champion
  • 2018 Olympian, first Orthodox Jew to compete in Winter Olympics
  • 2x international IBSF medalist
  • Currently pursuing Yale School of Management M.B.A (2023)
  • 2014 MIT, B.S. Mechanical Engineering

BIO

AJ Edelman (March 14, 1991) is an American-Israeli four-time national skeleton champion and 2018 Olympian, currently fielding a 4-man bobsled team that he intends to pilot in Beijing 2022.

Edelman was born in Boston, MA and raised in a Jewish, Modern Orthodox home. Edelman started his sporting career at age 3 as a hockey player, eventually playing for his hometown team through high school. His hockey career continued through his time at MIT, and ended after he turned down an offer to join the Israeli national team.

In 2013, Edelman decided that he wanted to pursue a goal to empower Jewish and Israeli youth to break the self-fulfilling vicious cycle of abandoning elite sport dreams by starting a foundation to provide resources/coaching to youth in need from those communities. He believed the best way to attain a platform to speak on these issues was to make an impact at the elite level of sport, qualifying Israel for the Olympics in a sliding sport. On March 14, 2014, Edelman was given a scouting report at the Lake Placid skeleton school that he would “never be competitive…not what we’d call athletic” and would “get down the track but that’ll be the most of it.” Edelman’s complete inability to sprint at an elite level, scoliosis (preventing effective stabilization on his sled,) was considered effective death-sentences to his chances. Upon hearing the report Edelman decided to pursue Olympic qualification in skeleton, resolving that it would be his life’s mission for at least the next 2,884 days (the time in which remained until Beijing ’22) to qualify Israel for the Olympics in skeleton.

Edelman was self-funded and could not afford a coach. He self-coached by watching 10-12 hours of YouTube World Cup footage daily and took on average 2-3 times the daily training-run volume of a typical skeleton athlete. Throughout his journey, Edelman established a number of traditions including that of having an Israeli athlete light Hannukah candles at the Koenigssee bobsled track each season. Edelman qualified for PyeongChang 2018 by securing back-to-back medals in his final two qualification races. He is the first Orthodox Jew to compete in a Winter Games, the first Orthodox Jewish male to do so in any modern Olympic iteration. Edelman competed in two World Championships representing Israel, and retired from skeleton as Israel’s most decorated slider, winning four Israeli national titles and two medals in IBSF-sanctioned international competition, the most of any Israeli sliding sport athletes.

In April, 2020 Edelman took a leave of absence from the MBA program at Yale School of Management to found, manage, and compete as part of “Operation Medal ’26,” an effort to build Israel’s bobsled program to medal contention at the 2026 Winter Olympic Games. OM26 seeks to field both men’s and women’s teams, a first in Israeli Bobsled history, under the collective team name “BobTeam Israel”. BobTeam Israel has representation of Israeli Arabs, Jews, and LGBTQ+ individuals.

Additionally, Edelman has said he is a supporter of anti-bullying and mental health initiatives, and that his motivation for continuing in sport is largely a desire “to use my Olympic journey as a platform to promote further Jewish and Israeli involvement in sport.” As member of the LGBT community, Edelman also takes the opportunity to talk to students and young adults who approach him with questions of how he has dealt with his personal identity as both a private and public individual.