Or Tal has been enthusiastically competing in swimming – and taking national honours.
Since childhood he has been competing in the Junior category at the Israeli nationals. From age 16 he started winning medals every time. He’s strongest in freestyle, taking on the 50, 100, 200 400 and 800-metre distances.
- National 400 metre champion at age 19
- National medal winner each year since age 16
- Vegan since age 9
In 2021 aged 19, Or won the 400-metre freestyle in the senior category. “Also I improved my record in 50m freestyle” he says, referring to his 22.77 seconds time in that distance.
In 2022 Or took 4th in the Nationals over 5000 metres (more here). Soon afterwards he entered the Emek Hefer competition which attracted elite swimmers from across Israel. He took individual Gold in three distances and helped his team to mixed relay Gold (more here). He was also awarded the title of outstanding competitor. Soon afterwards he took Silver in the Winter Nationals in 200 metres and recorded a Euroipean qualifying time (more here).
He returned to Emek Hefer in 2023 and took Gold on the 200 metres and Silver in both 100 metres and 50 metres. He was awarded outstanding competitor again (more here).
Aged 9, Or went vegan. His family decided to make the change, mainly to avoid harming animals. It’s something he’s come to support and benefit from, and he sticks to this at home and when travelling. “We love animals and don’t want to harm them” he says.
The 2021 400 metres starts at 1:31. Or (white cap) is in lane 4 (counting from bottom of the screen)
I love animals – they’re just like us – people – they are smart, they have feelings and they have families. I’m not gonna eat them especially when I know that you can be very strong and be a great athlete with this nutrition.”
Or will be staying vegan for good reasons.
One is “the awareness that vegan nutrition is healthy and there is a great variety of food that easy to digest”. This is something which he feels he has benefitted from. “It is perfect to practice when you don’t feel heavy from the food before the training” he explains.
“And above all I love animals – they’re just like us – people – they are smart, they have feelings and they have families. I’m not gonna eat them especially when I know that you can be very strong and be a great athlete with this nutrition.”
Their love and respect for animals is something they follow together. “We are a vegan family for more than 10 years. We love animals and care very much about the earth and the ecology.”
The family also helps animals in need.
“We have six cats – each one of them we saved and today they are like a family for us. We also help and feed homeless cats for 15 years.”
Or needs good nutrition. He’s a determined and committed swimmer with a full training regime.
“My day starts at 5:15 pm – I wake up to intensive water morning training.” Following this he goes to a military base where he is classed as an ‘excellent athlete’. This is a rare status which is only given to swimmers occasionally, and enables them to train. “When I finish work in the base I keep up to another training in the evening – both in the water and strength training. I train 4 – 6 hours a day.”
So Or needs fuel.
“I eat a lot of soy – soy reach in protein milk, a lot of tofu, lentils, beans, seitan, nuts. Sometimes – especially outside of home I use vegan protein powder. I also eat a lot of pasta and fresh or cooked vegetables, fruits and berries.”
Or has excellent results and is a respected member of his swimming team, Hapoel Bat-Yam. It’s a team Or is happy to be a part of.
“I swim in a great team and they know me as a vegan. They compliment me about my achievements and they even ask me what vegan food am I eating to be so strong.”
Another benefit is that Or has a vegan diet consultant, Nir Fink, who assists in food preparation. Or is also aware that family support is vital.
“My family support and help me as an athlete” he says. “My mother is a great vegan cook and for many years she explains about veganism, animal rights, ecology, providing great vegan recipes.”
At age 19 (in 2022) Or has plenty of opportunities to achieve more in his sport, and hopes to do so. He has already chosen swimming above a promising career in computer science in which he has shown a high level of ability.
“I plan to continue to work very hard, lead by my great trainer Meir Loya and improve my personal records” he says. “I’m looking forward to representing my team, my country and the vegan community in the world levels.”
Vegan cyclist, runner, swimmer