As modern, developing children, we are typically mandated to learn how to swim. We don’t know why we need to learn how to swim in pools full of filtered water, lakes inhabited with biological life or the dark depth ocean waters where unknown creatures exist.
We just do it and we swim, like most mammals that are capable of doing so. Whether we pick it up quickly or never even learn how to, we still attempt the action. Some will grow a fear of the water that may, unfortunately, torment them for years down the road.
Others, like American swimmer Michael Phelps will try to take their talents all the way to the Olympics.
In Ashdod, Israel, it is no different. Shahar Resman has spent every year of his life living in a region, which since the very birth of Israel’s existence 50 years ago, has been on the brink of war. Now, he’s a Keene State College freshman and in the water ready to compete for the KSC Men’s Swimming Team.
Three years ago, Resman found himself graduating high school and enlisting for the mandatory three years of service in the military. Three years of service is required for all male Israeli citizens after their high school graduation.
Resman said that even if he had not been required to serve, he would have done it anyway. Israeli women must serve at least two years of service within the military. Though he participated in swim races all his life, Resman is not a typical swimmer.
Competing in the World Cup Open Water Swimming Circuit, Resman is part of the Israeli open water swimming national team. He has ventured from as far as Europe to South America just to race.
Now that he finds himself in the small, quaint town of Keene, N.H., Resman’s travels attribute much to the story of how his talent ended up at a small NCAA Division III swimming program.
Head Swim Coach Jack Fabian is part of the U.S. National Open Water Swimming Team’s coaching staff. Fabian’s daughter, Eva, is a member of the US National Open Water Swim Team.
About a year ago, Fabian found himself in Argentina for a World Cup race. As luck would have it, Fabian met with Resman after seeing him compete and the two began a friendship that would bring them to where they are today.
About a year after their first meeting, Resman contacted Fabian, interested in competing for the KSC swim team.
“I told him we were DIII, non-scholarship [school], so I figured that would be the last we heard from him,” Fabian said. “But he contacted the Global Studies Director and Bert Poirier over at admissions and next thing I know he’s applying and getting out of the Army, and he really wanted to start this year,” Fabian said.
“He had the European Championships in the fall and said he’d be ready when he got here. He finally got in and he was able to handle it financially and next thing I know he told me he’d be taking a flight Jan. 5, so we got him over here, NCAA cleared and the rest is history,” Fabian added.
Just three months ago, Resman was finishing up the European Championship in Italy; swimming the 10k and 25k and placing a well-deserved eleventh in the 25k.
Resman said his niche in swimming has always been in the open water circuit, rather than the pool but long distances and endurance has never been a problem for the Israeli National.
During his time in the military after competing throughout his high school career, Resman was able to train but keep an equal balance to his swimming abilities. Unfortunately he said he was never able to improve to the level he wanted to be at, coming up short at the qualifying stages for the 2012 Olympic games in London.
“I am ordered so I go six, seven hours a day or maybe I stay two or three days there and do patrols in dangerous places so in my army experience I just try to not get worse and not get better but just stay balanced,” Resman said.
“I am still in the Army because if something happens I have to go back, if something real bad happened. We stay in the military until we are 40. If something small happened then I don’t know, it’s okay. For example if it’s a big war, I have to go back.”
In mid-November, the Israeli and Palestine conflict was in full swing as bombings from both groups took the world by storm. Tensions arose but eventually a compromise brought an end to the fighting. But the price in lives lost proved to be devastating for both sides.
The Gaza Strip is just one of the major locations where most displaced Palestinians reside and also where the majority of rockets were fired.
“I lived 25k [15.5 mi] from the Gaza Strip,” Resman said. “Two or three months ago, it was very scary and every day they bombed us and maybe every 30 minutes there were alarms and rockets. It was scary. I know how to live with this because it’s many years I’ve lived this. We have a big, big problem there with the Palestinians and the Israelis.”
Resman added, “I don’t know if some day it’s going to end but we’re trying and every citizen wants to be in peace. There are days when you can’t go out because you don’t know what’s happening. One second, a bus can explode or alarm and rockets can come but it’s scary. We live it every day so for us it can be scary.”
Resman said the closest bomb in the barrage hit 100 meters away from Resman’s home where his family resides. “Every rocket, when it explodes, you can hear it and all the building will shake so you feel it,” Resman said.
Despite the troubles placed onto the region, Resman’s swimming has withstood them and his passion for the sport is undeniable. KSC Athletic Director John Ratliff said Resman’s arrival is one that can offer a rare and enhanced experience to all KSC swimmers.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Ratliff said. “Anytime you can bring a different perspective to a group is always educationally enlightening. Not only is he a very good swimmer but he’ll bring diversity and a different international culture and experience to a team that doesn’t have that.”
KSC men’s swimmer and three-time All-American, Drew Ledwith competes in similar races that Resman does. Ledwith was also part of a large group of KSC swimmers who greeted Resman on his arrival at the airport in Boston three weeks ago. “It’s definitely a lot better,” Ledwith said.
“I finally have someone to do distant sets with me and we can race each other. I haven’t had someone like that in a while so it definitely helps.”
Ledwith gave some insight on how Resman was given the recent nickname of the ‘Israeli Rocket.’ “We didn’t really know if he was ever coming so [Fabian] started calling him ‘the rocket’ just as an incentive for us to go faster so he didn’t come in and beat us,” Ledwith said.
Resman credited his team because of the support they’ve given him and the training they partake in. Resman has had to adjust to the conditions 5,000 miles away from his home.
“The system over here is different from Israel,” Resman said. “I don’t know, it takes time, maybe a half-a-year till I see some results. It’s not something you train today good and tomorrow you swim good. It’s not like that. So you have to be patient. [Fabian] is a really good coach so I trust him.”
Resman added, “If it’s not going good now, it’s going to be good a year from now. I train with [Ledwith] who is really fast. He is also a really good friend. All the guys are good friends. The girls are a very good help too. They’re a really good team and I like the training here.”
Resman is a swimmer whose empowerment and passion for the sport is limitless but humble according to his peers. There are few limits for a swimmer who has expectations to be nothing less than great for the next four years.
Coach Fabian said he’s along for the ride and fully committed to helping Resman achieve his top goals. “[Resman] is very focused and knows exactly what he wants out of Keene State,” Fabian said.
“He took the risk of coming here and wants to make the Olympic team. I really want him to make the 2016 Olympic team for Israel. I want all of our training to add up to something that will make him able to do that. He just missed making it for London. When kids come here I want to see them achieve their dreams and that’s his big dream and I want to help him make that,” Fabian added.
Like all goals, they take time. They take hard work, effort and a tenacity to achieve them. Making the 2016 Olympic team is not only Resman’s goal, but it’s his lifetime dream. He’s just decided to have KSC be another place along his journey. First things always first though and that’s his role on the KSC men’s swim team.
As the season is coming to an end, Resman has two weeks till to qualify for Nationals in Texas.
“I took a big, big step in leaving my country and came here with nothing. Just my swimming and my English, which has to get better so it’s a really big change for me but I am patient,” Resman said.
He added, “I have a race in two weeks and if I do well I go to Nationals in Texas so I’m trying my best just to help the team and myself.” Resman said he plans to stay at KSC for four years.
Dalton Charest can be contacted at