March 6, 2006
Hagit Salamon is a freshman at University of New Mexico and is majoring in Pre-Veterinary. She is a native of Israel and is now a member of the team competing in long jump and triple jump events. Hagit is Israel's national junior champion in the triple jump and a silver medalist in the long jump. She recently placed sixth in the triple jump event at the Mountain West Conference Championships.
Q: How long is the flight from Israel to Albuquerque?
A: Well, from Tel Aviv to Prague it took 3 hours. From Prague to New York is 9 hours. New York to Chicago and Chicago to Albuquerque. So about 15-16 hours.
Q: What city in Israel are you from?
A: Yakum [pronounced Yah-koom], it's a kibbutz [pronounced Kee-boots]. It is a unique settlement based on Socialism and it's a small place with 600 people. It is based on agriculture with dairy farms, fields and orchards. There are no [big] buildings only small houses.
Q: Is it different for you now that you are in Albuquerque?
A: Somewhat, where I'm from is really green, close to the beach and it is really humid, but Israel has parts that are similar to Albuquerque. But I really like it here because of the weather. In the summer where I am from, you go out and after two minutes you are wet because of the humidity.
Q: Where did you go to High School?
A: I went to a regional high school in a different kibbutz ten minutes from Yakum.
Q: Did you compete in track and field for your high school?
A: Yeah, but sports is not that well developed. Some high schools don't even have teams. My high school didn't have a team. I just practiced with a team that can be considered an afternoon club team. I represented not my high school but a region of my country. But our Kibbutz is so small and didn't have a team, so I represented a different region.
Q: How did you find out about UNM?
A: Through Keren. (Assistant Coach for UNM Track and Field)
Q: Is Keren from the same kibbutz?
A: No, she is from a city three hours away from me. We competed against each other when I was in ninth grade before she left Israel for the United States. Now Karen hears about athletes in Israel wanting to come here to compete since the track and field community is not that big.
Q: Did you consider any other school to compete for?
A: Yes. Nebraska and Kansas State. I had friends there that wanted me to come to their school. I also had offers from Kentucky and Memphis as well.
Q: Why did you choose UNM?
A: The weather played a significant role. All the other places sounded terribly cold. I don't feel good physically when I am cold. I am used to very hot weather. Also, it is important to me that I have Karen. I can have someone that can understand me at practice and have good communication with. Having a mutual language makes a huge difference. She also has been through this before, so she just understands.
Q: You graduated high school in 2002, what did you do after graduating?
A: Straight after high school we have to do military service and it is mandatory. I did that for two years. I also took some time off and started working at the Kibbutz in the dairy farm. I also worked for a plastic bottle factory.
Q: What was it like in the military?
A: In the military, you get your basic training in the special base. After basic training, I was stationed in Tel Aviv, which is close to the central city of Israel and about forty minutes away from my home. I was stationed there because I was an athlete, so I kept on training like usual.
Q: Just like your roommates, Sandy and Kelly Fortner, you are from a set of twins as well, triplets to be exact. What are their names?
A: Michal is the oldest [pronounced Mee-hal or Mee-shal], Rutie was second [pronounced Roo-tee], and I was last.
Q: Do you miss being home?
A: Yeah. Last semester was really easy. I missed my family all the time but I didn't feel like it was hard. I also like a little bit of independence. The winter break changed me because I went home for my older sister's wedding. Since I came back I've been more home sick, or sensitive about it and it's harder. But I don't feel that I can't do anything because my family is not here. I speak to them a lot and I have an internet phone.
Q: Are you use to the food here yet? Are you able to have Israeli food?
A: Well, there is tons of greasy food here. The dairy products here are very, very different; so I miss that. But altogether I am fine with it. I can eat anything. I also have my meal plan with the dorm so I am not really able to cook for myself. Some of the pole vaulter's on the team have invited me to come over for some Israeli food before. That was nice.
Q: Are you planning on moving out of the dorm for the summer or next semester?
A: I haven't decided yet. I might stay here in the summer and work.
Q: Overall, are you enjoying your time here in New Mexico?
A: Yeah, I like it and I am really, really into school. I came with tons of motivation and am happy for the opportunity.