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6 of the World’s Sexiest Kayakers Train in Israel

Co-written with Anat Tamir

L to R: Ilya Medvedev (RUS), Stefan Domeisen (SUI), Eran Lev (ISR), Miika Von Dietrich (FIN), Ilya Podpolynyy (ISR), Fabio Wyss (SUI)
L to R: Ilya Medvedev (RUS), Stefan Domeisen (SUI), Eran Lev (ISR), Miika Von Dietrich (FIN), Ilya Podpolynyy (ISR), Fabio (SUI) (Photo: Ronit Shaked)

As the waters rose on the Sea of Galilee this winter, the level of heat reached unprecedented levels, requiring an advisory for women: Beware of ripples – ripples on abs so hard that you might lose your breath and drown. As the harsh winter overtook Europe and Russia, some of the hottest champion kayakers took to the warm Kinneret Lake for a five week training camp hosted by the Jordan Valley Kayak Sprint Club. While Israel is not famous for Olympic medals – whether due to the Jewish emphasis on books or security – the Holy Land has brought home four of its seven Olympic medals in water sports. Thanks to these hunks, Israel is bringing glory back to this overlooked and under-appreciated sport. Now it’ll be “over” looked for a different reason. The Kinneret never looked this beautiful.

#1 Fabio (SUI)

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The name says it all. Fabio is just fabulous, in part because he doesn’t even realize just how fabulous he is. His beauty is Bar Rafaeli-esque, but he doesn’t think he has what it takes to model. With a head on those broad shoulders, he would actually prefer a career in journalism over modeling. But one dream for now: Gold at Rio de Janeiro in 2016. The Swiss national champ placed in the top 12 at World and European championships. The invitation to train in Israel came during Operation Protective Edge, but who’s Fabio to fear anything? As the Israeli southern skies cleared and the Swiss skies got murky, he convinced teammates Stefan and Miika, (#5 and #6) to make the pilgrimage, citing the warm weather, proximity to Europe and the Israeli standard of living. His spiritual side makes him a sight to behold as he strokes meditatively on the Sea of Galilee.

“I love to be out on the lake, nature,” Fabio said. “I go on the water, especially if I go by myself, and I’m in a different world – without any cell phones, without humans, sometimes there’s a stupid fisherman. We’re living such a busy life, I need a small escape, and this sport gives me that.”

#2 Ilya Podpolnyy (ISR)

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Ilya is the man responsible for reviving the Jordan Kayak Sprint Club’s popularity among world-class kayakers – and it’s not because of his sparkling green eyes and body of a Greek god; after all, his target is to train with other men. (In case you were wondering, they’re all straight.) At a competition in Italy, he invited Fabio (#1) to Israel, a training destination the Swiss champ might have otherwise never considered. Having made aliyah by himself at age 15 from Russia, Ilya is currently a lone soldier with the “outstanding athlete” status in the Israeli army, so he gets time to train and compete – and also goof around. His teammates are drawn to his fun-loving personality (just take a look at this fun video) and his superior athleticism. It’s no wonder he easily allayed any fears about Israel’s safety; this handsome hulk could take down an entire Hezbollah terrorist cell with one smack of his paddle.

“I see it as helping people,” Ilya said of why he invites athletes to train here. “The athletes also come as my training partners. I don’t have partners who are on my level.”

Completely understood. To use Ilya’s favorite phrase: “Oh my gosh!” (Photos: Ronit Shaked)

#3 Eran Lev (ISR)

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Israeli champ Eran returned throughout the winter to his hometown of Ein Gev on the Golan Heights to race his European counterparts. Having represented Israel at World and European championships, this Tel Aviv resident is now studying for his bachelors’ degree in insurance. The most senior of the group, he is also the seasoned statesman, having represented Israel gracefully, ready to beat out any coach or athlete who would make racist anti-Israel comments – on and off the water.

“You need to behave like an ambassador. We are diplomats on a small scale,” he said.

Coming here, he believes, is the best way to dispel misconceptions athletes might have about Israel from watching the news. Now, if only Israel would give these patriotic athletes the support they deserve.

“In Israel it’s hard to succeed if you don’t have the support of proper agencies – the government, the sports union, the medical community,” he said. Don’t worry, Eran. We have your back – and your abs. (Photo right: Amir Buchnik; Photo left: Ronit Shaked)

#4 Ilya Medvedev (RUS)

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The most decorated of the bunch, this Olympian said that when he doesn’t train in Israel, he just doesn’t win medals. Credit that, perhaps, to the spiritual nature of the Jordan River, holy to Jews and Christians (he grew up Christian.)

“The whole time we had practice in this River, after that we were in very good condition because of this saintly, magic river,” he said in broken English from his home in St. Petersburg, a few days after his Israeli training.

But, just like the rest of the guys, he also knows how to party. So far, he has celebrated four Purim parties at Kibbutz Degania.

“For us it was great memories.” What does he love about Israel? “The sun, the food. Russian camps don’t have it. And, of course, Israel was cool.” (Photos: Ronit Shaked)

#5 Miika Von Dietrich (FIN)

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The Nordic and Finnish champion, Miika, might as well have kayaked all the way from Finland from the way his abs and arms are so strong and sculpted. His warm smile and crystal eyes make one think of a Viking king – a kind one. “I like the sun the most. The warm weather, nice waves, kibbutz food,” he said, recalling fondly his community meals at Kibbutz Degania, where he and his teammates boarded. Thanks for bringing the muscle back to Israel’s first kibbutz!

#6 Stefan Domeisen (SUI)

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What makes Stefan so sexy is his shyness, mystery, and potential. Having placed 13 in the European champions, he’s slated to follow in the footsteps of Fabio as Switzerland’s best. While his teammates outmatch in him English proficiency, he doesn’t necessarily have to talk. Stefan, we’re happy just watching you on the lake.

Check out the feature in the Jerusalem Post about the kayak training camp in Israel. For more hotties, check out Orit and Zahava Englard’s feature on the Sexiest Settlers.

Anat TamirAnat Tamir works as a human resource professional in Tel Aviv, which enables her to see the potential in the people around her. This fun-loving Tel Aviv native enjoys Tel Aviv restaurants, nightlife, and discovering the beauties of the land of Israel.

About the author

Picture of Orit Arfa

Orit Arfa

Orit Arfa is a is a journalist and author based in Berlin. Visit her website: www.oritarfa.net.
Picture of Orit Arfa

Orit Arfa

Orit Arfa is a is a journalist and author based in Berlin. Visit her website: www.oritarfa.net.
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