Considered Israel's greatest Paralympian, Keren Leibovitch is a three-time world swimming champion, a five-time European champion, and an seven-time Paralympic medal winner, including four gold medals. She has set multiple world records and has served over the years as an eloquent and inspiring spokesperson in both Israel and around the world for athletes with disabilities, combining her exceptional physical talent with perseverance, initiative, and heart.
Ms. Leibovitch was born in Israel in 1973 and began swimming early in life. At 18, she suffered a serious spinal cord injury while training to be an officer in the Israel Defense Forces. She underwent two major back surgeries and spent three years in the hospital, but the devastating accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. Swimming became an integral part of her rehabilitation process, and Ms. Leibovitch was soon spotted by a coach who encouraged her to begin training competitively.
And so she did, going on to win three gold medals at the 1999 European Championships and three gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics in backstroke and freestyle events—setting three world records in the process. In 2002 and 2003, she continued to set new world records and earned gold medals in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle events at the Israeli Swimming Championships for the Handicapped. She competed again in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens and in the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing, earning another gold medal, as well as two silver medals and one bronze.
More recently, Ms. Leibovitch set herself a new goal—to swim across the English Channel. In preparation for this feat, she started practicing Pilates, and after 10 months of intensive training saw significant improvement in some of her physical abilities: For the first time since her back injury, she was able sit up straight in her wheelchair. Today, Ms. Leibovitch is able to move around on crutches and has since opened her own Pilates studio, where she teaches individuals both with and without disabilities.
Through her work as a fitness professional and through her public advocacy and leadership, Keren Leibovitch has become an international role model for young athletes with disabilities, setting a powerful example of victory of mind over body. For her achievements and inspiration, Ms. Leibovitch was honored to light a torch on Israel’s Independence Day Ceremony in 2004 and in 2017 she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Haifa.
Keren Leibovitch is a single mother of four boys (two sets of twins).