Rower Moran Samuel Brings Home Israel’s First Medal at Rio Paralympics

Mother of boy named Arad – bronze in Hebrew – takes bronze medal.

2016 Rio Paralympics - Rowing- Victory Ceremony - AS Women's Single Scull ASW1X Victory Ceremony - Lagoa Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 11/09/2016. Bronze medalist Moran Samuel of Israel poses with her medal.
Moran Samuel after receiving her bronze medal in Rio, September 11, 2016. Ricardo Moraes, Reuters

In the 2012 London Paralympics, only a year after she had started to row competitively, Moran Samuel finished fifth in the arms-shoulders single sculls 1,000-meter event, missing out on the bronze medal by slightly more than a second.

On Sunday, the rower won the first medal for Israel’s delegation in Rio, winning the bronze with a time of 5:17.46 in the final, four seconds faster than her fastest time to date. Britain’s Rachel Morris took the gold and China’s Lily Wang won the silver.

Samuel looked a bit disappointed with her third-place finish but was still happy to have brought Israel its 381st Paralympics medal (as compared to nine Olympic medals).

“I left everything I could leave on the water but there were those who were better than me,” Samuel said, who trailed the leaders very closely throughout the race, but still finished four seconds behind Morris. “When I finished I knew I wasn’t first and it broke my heart a bit but I am very happy to have won a medal.”

2016 Rio Paralympics - Rowing- Victory Ceremony - AS Women's Single Scull ASW1X Victory Ceremony - Lagoa Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 11/09/2016. Silver medalist Lili Wang (L to R) of China, gold medalist Rachel Morris of Britain and bronze medalist Moran Samuel of Israel pose with their medals.
Ricardo Moraes, Reuters

She noted that she has been nursing an injury in her left hand for over six months. “My hand got so tired that I couldn’t use it during the last part of the final. Those are not excuses; I didn’t want it to happen and I’d hoped it would be perfect until the end. What hurt me was the last 250 [meters] when the wind blew strongly leftward. It affected me the most and I’m pleased with the end result. I finished on the podium and that was great. After all, I could have finished without a medal too, right?”

Samuel, who has a son named Arad, which means “bronze” in Hebrew, added, “I have an Arad at home, and now I also have a bronze medal.”

Samuel, who trained with Italian coach Paula Grizzetti, had once been a basketball player on the women’s national youth team. Seven years ago she became paralyzed from the chest down when a blood clot penetrated her spinal cord and exploded in it. After a lengthy rehabilitation she began playing wheelchair basketball with the men at Beit Halohem in Tel Aviv, but she began to row five years ago, winning the world championships in France last year.

Israeli rower Moran Samuel.
Iqor Meijer, AFP