WUDC 2011: Interview with the champion debater Michael Shapira from Israel

Datum: Feb 10th, 2011
Category: Menschen

Revelations of a great debater mind – or so he denies to be. Achte Minute was talking to Michael Shapira who won this year’s World Universities Debating Championships (WUDC or Worlds) at Gaborone, Botswana in the category “English as a Second Language” (ESL) together with his team mate Meir Yarom. The Israeli from the University of Haifa did not hesitate to reveal his strategy to us. Read how his friends and his mom celebrated him and where to meet him this year.

Achte Minute: Dear Michael, congrats for winning the ESL title at the Worlds in early January. Being back home now: How does it feel being a world debating champion?
Michael: It’s fun. I think being world champion in anything sounds like fun. Debating is probably one of the nicer ones.

Meir Yarom, the trophy and Michael Shapira (f.l.t.r.) upon their arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv after Botswana Worlds. (Photographer: Tali Fixler)

Achte Minute: Between you and me, how did it feel  when you found yourself in the ESL final?
Michael: Strange, we really didn’t expect to be there. I remember before the final started we were wondering how it would feel to play this game in front of such a large group of people. Gin and Tonic solved most of the problems related to that.

Achte Minute: That must have been an amazing feeling. How did you celebrate afterwards?
Michael: Many ways, many I should not talk about. But mostly with our friends in the University of Haifa, who started celebrating even before we got home. We had a huge delegation waiting for us at Ben Gourion Airport with signs and stuff, which is probably the nicest walk in to the reception hall I’ve ever had.

Achte Minute: Who were the first ones you shared the great news with at home?
Michael: I’ll be honest, I just don’t remember. By the phone bill its seems to have been quite a few people. Most likely our parents and our coach Uri Zakai.

Achte Minute: Talking about your parents – what did your mother say about your winning the Worlds title?
Michael: Mom got drunk.

Achte Minute: Let’s get a little more serious. How did you prepare for Worlds?
Michael: Prepping for Worlds was reading a lot on a lot of stuff and writing prep cases we never used. But mostly it was about debating in society in Haifa. We were very lucky to have Anat Gelber to judge us so many times in training debates. Her personal experience and insights are a beacon and inspiration for all of us in Haifa, some of us even marry her out of pure admiration . We were also fortunate to debate with Hannekke Berman and Leor Sapir  in the past year, who are both WUDC finalists themselves (Koç). We learned a lot from them.

Achte Minute: Let’s be honest – did you see it coming?
Michael: NO! NO! NO! NEIN! LO! NON! We hoped very much to break, we barley did that (#16). After the break things started going very well for us obviously, but we really did not see it coming. You have to understand, we were NOT the best ESL team there, We were definitely not the best ESL team at the final. We just won THAT round. Debating against amazing debaters like Rob and Ali or Filip and Maya and EXPECTING to win is crazy.

Achte Minute: For those who have never been to a WUDC competition: What kind of trophy does one get for winning Worlds?
Michael: See the pic of me, Meir and the trophy.

Achte Minute: Coming to your background: What do you study? Is it true that it is philosophy and general history? Is it a recommendable combination to have a law student and a historian as team mates? What is the benefit of it? What are the disadvantages?
Michael: I study History, yes. I think our different fields helped us very much. I have loads of examples for bizarre things which seem to fit a lot of motions, and Meir is aces when it comes to the courts etc. The disadvantages? I hate lawyers and Meir knows this. We also apparently don’t know much about teacher’s striking rights. Fact is, I really don’t think there is any “right” field of study for debaters, it is part of what’s so wonderful about our hobby. You never really know when some bizarre article you read for some course you didn’t really want to take becomes that thing that wins an important room for you. Great arguments come from everywhere, you can’t help but love it.

Achte Minute: Please share some of your expertise – any piece of advice for our readers so that they may win the ESL title for a change? Or are you going to keep that to yourselves to make sure Israel is going to win again next year – for the third time in a row?
Michael: I cannot possibly discuss with you Israeli strategic debating abilities. In fact, Israel does not confirm nor deny that it has any. The only thing we can say is that if you didn’t win Worlds, we recommend you blame the Palestinians. If you like, we will gladly blame them for you.

Achte Minute: Well, insisting on having no strategy serves Israel well: You guys seem to have subscribed to the ESL title at Worlds – did Yoni Cohen Idov and Uri Merhav, last year’s ESL winners at Koç Worlds, give you any advice?
Michael: Yoni and Uri are Tel-Aviv university debaters, we are from Haifa – so they are actually the enemy. But seriously, Yoni and I won the Red Sea Open tournament together last summer and of course you learn a lot from working with a debater of his caliber.  He gave me quite a few pointers during that tournament, all of which were used during Worlds, so yes, he did his national duty of passing the knowledge on.

Achte Minute: Are you going to compete again next year at DLSU Worlds in Manila?
Michael: I can only speak for myself, but I won’t.

Achte Minute: Where are we going to meet you next time? What is your debate schedule for 2011?
Michael: I always felt that adjudication from a lot of great judges helped me a lot on my way as a debater. I now have this bizarre urge to give back to this amazing community that gave so much to me – so I’ll be adjudicating where I can and maybe debate some for fun. I’m CAing the Israeli Open in March and I’ll be seeing you in the Vienna IV and Euros at least, and after that we will see.

Achte Minute: תודה רבה, toda raba, thank you very much, Michael, for this interview! And again: מזל טוב, mazal tov, congrats!

apf / glx

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1 Kommentare zu “WUDC 2011: Interview with the champion debater Michael Shapira from Israel”

  1. He’s such a funny guy!

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