CHICAGO -- Jillian Schwartz is trying to learn Hebrew, but it might be a good thing her knowledge remains limited.
That way, the 31-year-old pole vaulter and Lake Forest (Ill.) High School graduate couldn't know whether the Israeli papers ripped her for a subpar performance at the country's national championships in July.
"They probably did," Schwartz said, laughing.
That's the difference between competing for Israel, which Schwartz has done the last two seasons, and competing for the United States, which she did at two world championships and the 2004 Olympics.
"It's kind of an advantage and a disadvantage," Schwartz said. "In Israel, there is pressure from the federation and your club, so if you don't jump well you feel like you are letting other people down. In the U.S., you feel like nobody cares. It's nice how appreciative Israelis are of (top) athletes."
That's because there are so few in Israel. Schwartz is among just five Israelis who have achieved qualifying standards for the World Track and Field Championships later this month in Daegu, South Korea. She was among 139 U.S. athletes at the 2009 worlds in Berlin.
"Of course, the Israeli people are interested in her," said Jack Cohen, general secretary of Israel's track and field federation, which pays part of Schwartz's training expenses. "She is marked as one who should achieve a certain standard. With those expectations comes some pressure."
Ironically, one of the reasons Schwartz changed competitive allegiance was to lessen the pressure and consequent strain on her body, especially as she got older.
"You don't have to go through the meat grinder of the U.S. trials to get to the Olympics," said Earl Bell, who has coached Schwartz in Jonesboro, Ark., since her graduation from Duke in 2001.
After finishing fourth at the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials, where three made the team, Schwartz retired. She returned after watching the 2009 Millrose Games and realizing her desire to jump remained.
Later that year, she accepted invitations to compete at the Israeli Championships and the Maccabiah Games. When she won both, an Israeli sports official suggested Schwartz consider competing for Israel.
USA Track & Field waived the three-year wait for her to join a new nation, and Schwartz switched after finishing 15th at the 2009 worlds.
"It has rekindled my religious upbringing," Schwartz said.
Her vaulting too. Schwartz's best 2010 vault, an Israeli-record 15 feet, 1 inch, would have tied for second on the U.S. list. This year, struggling with a hamstring injury, her best is 14-9.
Had she done that a day later, when qualifying for the 2012 Olympics began, Schwartz already would have earned a place on Israel's team. She can get to London by making the top 16 at worlds or jumping 14-9 by next July 1.
"Israel stepped in to help Jillian's career, so she feels pressure to perform, and that's a good thing," Bell said.
Especially if you can't read about it.