From Russia to Thai Boxing Champion

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At the age of just 14, David Dikun left his widowed mother and two siblings behind in Odessa, Ukraine, to begin a new life on his own in Boys Town Jerusalem. Four years later, he’s not only graduating with honor, but also leaving something for his alma mater to keep: two top Israeli Thai Boxing championship awards that glitter in the BTJ trophy case.

“I didn’t know a word of Hebrew when I arrived here,” David notes (in fluent Hebrew). “It took time to get accustomed to a new country and a new school, but I’m proud that I did.” Yet David’s entry to Israel on “OhrDessa,” a BTJ program for Russian youth who came alone to live and study in Israel, was greatly eased by his love for sports. David soon relished every free minute on the school’s advanced sports fields and its state-of-the-art Kaswell Fitness Center. The day he enrolled in an after-school Thai Boxing class, he immediately set his heart on entering competitions. And winning.

“I didn’t know a word of Hebrew when I arrived here…”

“I like to compete,” he admits with a smile. Last year, then-17-year-old David reached a landmark when he entered and won the Israeli National Thai Boxing Championship for his age group. This year the champ aced another gold medal in the National Yeshiva High School championship match.

The angel behind David’s meteoric rise is Boys Town Jerusalem\’s sports director Doron Deutch, who took an immediate interest in helping the lonely youngster. “David has a rare spark of genius fused with very meticulous, rigorous discipline. BTJ gave him not only a home, but a place to develop his skills to the highest peak he could aim for.” Over recent years, Deutch and his prize student have combined efforts to pursue their shared passion, the strength sport of powerlifting. “In my free time, we work out together for two-hour sessions,” David explains. “I’m there to ‘spot’ my teacher as he lifts a 285-pound barbell in a bench press (from a lying position), and he spots me with raising my 220-pound barbell. (The “spotter” supports a fellow weightlifter’s exercise, enabling him to lift more than he could safely do alone.)

“David has a rare spark of genius fused with very meticulous, rigorous discipline.\”

Spurred by the confidence he gained from his coach, David tackled his academic assignments by the same methods he’d mastered in sports. “I prepare my schoolwork like I prepare for a competition—studying, reviewing, and practicing till I’m perfect.” The winning results in the academic arena were excellent marks in both his high-level academic subjects and Jewish studies. As David’s Hebrew improved, he gained close friends in classmates from Israel and the world over.

At his 2016 graduation from Boys Town Jerusalem, David Dikun was cited for excellence. Now an Israeli citizen, he’s set his sights on joining an elite IDF combat unit. “I know that life is a challenge,” he says. “Fortunately, I’ve acquired exceptional skills to compete.”

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