Israeli swimmer thrives at Michigan State
Coming all the way from Qiryat Motzkin, Israel, swimmer Guy Moskovich moved to East Lansing to continue his career for the Michigan State men’s swimming and diving team, a school he called a “perfect fit.”
“They understood me, I understood them,” Moskovich said. “We saw eye to eye. I just felt the connection right away.”
Simply put, that connection was swimming. Moskovich wouldn’t have come to MSU if it weren’t for his swimming skill set, MSU swimming and diving coach Matt Gianiodis said.
Swimming also made that connection for Moskovich’s roommate, teammate and kinesiology sophomore Josh Pascua. Pascua said he and Moskovich felt like they had something in common through swimming on the team together.
“When we first came in, that was like the only thing that we really had in common,” Pascua said. “Even now I can tell he’s really into the sport. He knows a lot.”
By now, Moskovich has become more to the team than just a fast swimmer.
“He’s really funny once you get to know him,” Pascua said. “A lot of people don’t know that because he’s foreign and (some people) don’t really talk to him that much ... He’s a good guy, no pun intended.”
Moskovich began swimming when he was 8 years old on club teams in Israel. Since then, he has found success in the United States.
He frequently swims butterfly and freestyle endurance sets, posting records and recording several high-ranked finishes. Over the course of the last season, he recorded three first-place finishes, four second-place finishes and one third-place finish, including a win in the mile at the Northwestern Invitational.
At the Big Ten Championships last year, Moskovich swam a personal and team-best time of 15:15.06 in the mile, placing 14th in the event with the fourth fastest time in school history.
After the 2017-2018 season, Moskovich returned to Israel for the summer and continued swimming for club teams. While there, he was a part of a relay team that won the Israeli nationals.
“I think he’s an asset, obviously, to our program,” Gianiodis said. “I think he’s an asset overall to the university, too.”
Due to Israel’s military service requirement, Moskovich started his freshman year of college at an older age than most first-year students.
“He’s really a mature kid,” Gianiodis said. “He did two years of military service. That’s one of the things when you get a kid from Israel is they come over here older than the rest of the kids would be as freshmen.”
Now, at age 22, he is viewed as an older brother by his peers, including Pascua.
“He is my older brother in a way,” Pascua said. “He’s really cool, looking out for me. He’s really responsible.”
Gianiodis said that it’s often a positive to have a swimmer like that on the team.
“He’s very easy to coach (and) very easy to deal with,” Gianiodis said. “He’s a hard-working kid. ... It’s been a really enjoyable experience for me.”
Moskovich’s devotion to the sport is in the spotlight as he learns to overcome a language barrier. He says he still has difficulty when it comes to deciphering accents. But Gianiodis believes the athlete adjusted well to language and culture in the U.S.
“I have a tendency to talk in a lot of slang during practice, and for the international kids it’s difficult for them to pick up on that sometimes,” Gianiodis said.
Gianiodis had praise for Moskovich’s ability to adapt to his surroundings in a new country, taking it in stride as the only international student on the team.
“I’d say his biggest development is assimilating,” Gianiodis said. “He assimilated very quickly, not just to the language, but to the culture and everything that goes on. Not just American culture, but Michigan State culture and the team culture. His ability to assimilate has really been pretty incredible.”
Despite the adjustments Moskovich has had to make, he has been a team leader of sorts, especially when it comes to team motivation.
“He dictates how practice goes,” Gianiodis said. “He’s really good at working hard and getting the people around him to work hard.”
Even with the cultural barriers, Moskovich has found support in his teammates.
“It’s really helpful to come here and to know that you have ... 60 more friends that you can talk to and be with every time,” Moskovich said. “You feel like you’re family.”
His friends on the swim team have fared poorly so far this season, losing to both of their Big Ten opponents — Iowa and Purdue — at home in McCaffree Pool.
Moskovich wants people to know that he is happy at MSU and excited to continue his swimming career.
“I’m doing what I love to do, swimming. (I wake) up in the morning and I just can’t wait to swim,” Moskovich said. “After 14 years, I’m pretty passionate about it.”