Athlete Legends

Abigail “Abby” Hoffman
Abigail was born in Toronto, Canada in February 11th, 1947. She was raised in a Jewish family and learned to ice skate when she was three years old. By the age of nine, she wanted to join a hockey team. There were no girl leagues in the area of Toronto, so driven by her passion, she cut her hair short and registered herself as “Ab Hoffman” in the boy’s league. Wearing the number 6, Abby’s skill led her to play as defense, yet, prior to the tournament, regulations called for the players’ birth certificate and by that uncovering the truth. Abby’s coaches and managers were shocked; she was kicked off the team and was no longer allowed to play.
After being disqualified, her parents took the case to the Ontario Supreme Court and got media such as Time Magazine and Newsweek to cover the story. After all the buzz generated, she managed to play for the St. Catherines Tee Pees boys’ team as a defenseman and after was selected for an All-Star charity tournament.
Abby overcame the difficulties that came with being a female in the sports world. After her team lost in the tournament she gave up playing Junior A hockey, but her impetus for sports did not end there. Her mother’s view on girls playing sports was motivational and inspiring for Abby, she believed in fair play for girls as well as boys.
When growing up, Abby swam at the family’s cottage and for the Lake-Shore Swimming Club, so after her hockey drop-out, she continued swimming competitively and afterwards she began her sports career in track and field, specifically 800-meter running.
She competed in four Olympic Games, four Pan American Games and two Commonwealth Games among many other worldwide competitions. In 1969 Maccabiah she won two gold medals and in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games she was 8th in a historic women’s 800-metre race breaking the 2-minute barrier record. In the 1976 Summer Olympic Games held in Montreal, Canada she was the first women to hold the Canadian flag in the opening ceremony.


Figure 1 - Hoffman in the Maccabiah in 1969

In 1977 Abby was named one of the “50 Markers and Breakers in Canadian sport”. She challenged the status quo and certainly made some records and broken some rules.
Hoffman fought for athletes’ rights, for female athletes, the advancement of women in sport and against racial inequality in the Olympics long after she herself retired from competitive athletics. In 1981, she was appointed Director General of Sport Canada, the first women to hold that position. She held that position until in 1993 she became the first Director General of Health Canada's new Women's Health Bureau. In 2004, she was introduced into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and in 2007 into the Jewish Canadian Athletes Hall of Fame.


Figure 2 - On the podium in the Maccabiah

Angelica Adelstein-Rozeanu
Rozeanu is considered the greatest table tennis player ever. She was born into a Jewish family in Bucharest, Romania in October 15th 1921. As a young girl, Angelica was an enthusiast for several sports including tennis, cycling and swimming, but it was at the age of nine, when recovering from scarlet fever, that she started playing table tennis.
At the age of twelve, Angelica won the Romanian Cup, and three years later she became the Romanian national championship after winning the Romanian national women’s championship in 1936. She remained champion every year until 1957, excluding the years of World War II, when as from 1940 to 1944 she was barred from even entering a gymnasium in Romania, and therefore she was unable to play.
By the age of sixteen she was world class, and in 1950 she won her first World Championship. After that competition she won seventeen world titles, including six straight singles championships. She took the world women’s double title three times (1953, 1955 and 1956) and the world’s mixed doubles title three times (1951–1953). In total, she won 17 world titles and 12 silver and bronze medals at the World Championships.
Also in 1950 Angelica was appointed president of the Romanian Table Tennis Commission. In 1954, she was awarded Romania’s highest sports title of “Merited Master of Sport” and in 1955 she was appointed a Deputy of the Bucharest Municipality.
In 1957 an anti-Semite became the chairman of the Romanian Federation, forcing Rozeanu and other Jewish players to drop out and quit playing. That same year her husband immigrated to Israel, but she decided to stay in Romania. Soon after, the anti-semeitc chairman was fired from his position, and Rozeanu could resume her athletic career. She didn't miss a beat, and in 1960 she won three titles in Russia in 1960.
That summer, however, Rozeanu decided to make Aaliyah and immigrate to Israel. She won the Maccabiah Games Table Tennis Championship in 1961 and was Israel’s champion three years in a row (1960-1962). However, the table tennis was not popular in Israel and Asian countries began to dominate the sport, drifting Angelica to find other outlets for her sports passion such as swimming, jogging and bridge.
In 1981 she was elected a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and into the ITTF Hall of Fame in 1995. She lived the rest of her life in Israel, created a family and kept in touch with her native Romania, and visited it for the last time in 2005. In 2006 she died at the age of 84.