Going downhill fast!
Florida lawyer sets his sights on the Olympics
Life in the fast lane for Hollywood attorney Jared Firestone has been all downhill — and that’s a good thing.
No party animal, the 29-year-old Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law graduate has spent the past several years in intense physical training while he juggles twin legal and real estate careers and secures dual citizenship — all to realize his dream of representing Israel in the 2022 Winter Olympics in the skeleton.
Firestone wears so many hats, he’s learned to be selective when he introduces himself.
“I usually say I’m a lawyer, and I sell real estate,” Firestone says. “I save the Olympic stuff for last, because that usually ends up being a long conversation, and my girlfriend or my sisters are pretty tired of hearing it.”
Winter Olympic fans know that the skeleton involves an athlete lying prone on a tiny sled and rocketing headfirst down a frozen track at speeds of up to 80 mph while slamming through the occasional 5-G turn. The sled has no steering mechanism and no brakes. Visibility is extremely limited. Looking up is tempting when your face is inches from the ice, but it’s difficult with five times the force of gravity pushing down on your neck, Firestone says.
“Clean runs are few and far between, especially when you are first starting out,” Firestone says. “Your arms are exposed off the sides and the ice on the walls is not smooth like the ice on a rink, and there are some pretty serious cuts and bruises, but I’ve been pretty lucky . . . so far so good.”
But it was a failure of luck, Firestone says, that brought him to such a busy crossroad.
A Broward County native, Firestone was a gifted track and field athlete when he attended Pine Crest School, winning a district championship in the 100-meter dash and setting school records. He continued to pursue track at Tulane University, but soon concluded it was not a path to the Olympics.
“I realized I was not going to get a lifetime Nike contract, let me put it that way,” he said.
So he put his athletic aspirations on hold and headed to law school in New York.
“I took a logic class in the ethics department at Tulane, and I was good at it,” he said. “It was using symbols, but I liked the idea of using logic to formulate actual legal arguments through the same type of thinking and my professor encouraged me to take the LSAT.”
One morning, Firestone awoke in his New York City dorm, in a hurry to get to a 1L class after a late night study session, when he realized something was wrong.
“When I went to turn off the alarm, I noticed my fingers weren’t working right and I had to use my other hand, and it quickly progressed from there,” he said. “When I went to brush my teeth, I couldn’t lift the toothbrush to my mouth.”
When he called his physician father for help, Firestone was having trouble forming words. Suspecting a stroke, Firestone’s father calmly ordered his son to walk to a nearby clinic.
“My legs were working, but I had to kind of shove my body weight around to get to the elevator,” Firestone said. “At least I was able to communicate to the people at the clinic what was wrong with me.”
Firestone was whisked in a cab to a nearby hospital, where, at 22, he was diagnosed with a transient ischemic attack, otherwise known as a “TIA” — sometimes called a “mini-stroke.”
Doctors also found a perforation in his heart, but it was too small to require surgery, he said.
Firestone made a full recovery, but he required a two-month convalescence. That’s when he caught some coverage of the 2014 Olympics and he saw skeleton for the first time. Everything changed.
Not only were his Olympic dreams rekindled, so was his interest in his family’s faith, Judaism. From pre-school through 8th grade, Firestone received religious instruction at Hillel Community School.
As a teen, Firestone participated in the International March of the Living, a program that begins with tours of former concentration camps in Europe and culminates in a trip to Israel. It marked his second trip to the nation. Firestone said he had long identified with Israel, and after his health scare, the pull was irresistible.
“It runs pretty deep in me, and it’s always been a very important part of my lisfe,” he said.
After graduating law school, gaining admittance to the New York and Florida bars, and practicing briefly with a personal injury firm in New York City, Firestone returned to Florida and obtained a real estate license. He spends half his work life representing legal clients as a solo practitioner and the other half selling real estate.
Three years ago, confident he could make an independent living, Firestone traveled to Lake Placid, New York, and joined the Team USA Skelton Developmental Program. Skeleton competitors sprint across the ice before plunging onto their sleds, and Team USA was impressed by Firestone’s track prowess.
“I was right to some degree in that I thought I could be good at it, because Team USA liked my abilities and invited me to come learn how to slide,” Firestone said. “But I was wrong, in that, it wasn’t as easy as I thought.”
After training for three years with Team USA in facilities in Lake Placid and Park City, Utah, Firestone joined the Israeli Olympic Bobsled & Skeleton Federation, and set his sights on competing for Israel. On June 10, he flew to Tel Aviv to pick up the documents confirming his dual U.S./Israeli citizenship.
These days, he splits his time between practicing law as a solo practitioner in South Florida and selling real estate, and training for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
The Israeli Bobsled & Skeleton Federation has been around since 2003, but Israel didn’t have an Olympian in the sport until last year, Firestone said. The team is so small and so new, Israeli bobsledders and skeleton athletes team up with other small nations and share a coach, Firestone said.
Firestone still has access to the training facilities Team USA uses, but now he has to pay for the privilege. He figures that flying an 80-pound sled around the country and paying for room and board will cost $40,000 a year for the next three years.
His former firm in Brooklyn and Nelson and Nelson in South Florida, headed by a family friend, have agreed to sponsor him. His story is available at his website, https://jfireisraelslider.com.
Getting to the Olympics isn’t a given, of course. Firestone will have to compete in national and international qualifying events that will heat up at the beginning of the Olympic year. The structure of eliminations is complicated, Firestone said.
“Basically, 30 sleds will qualify for the Olympics from 18 different countries,” he said. “So as long as there’s not people from 18 different countries that are faster than one of us, then Israel will be able to qualify for one of the spots.”
Firestone said his legal training has been a bigger boon than he imagined.
“Just having the legal background, figuring out the logistics when it comes to figuring out my competition schedule and training, it’s been a real help,” he said. “And being a younger person in real estate sales, it definitely legitimizes you.”