Israeli swimmers finished the European Swimming Championships this weekend with a haul of five medals, but they were not the only ones proudly wearing blue-and-white on podiums across the continent. Gymnast Alex Shatilov, windsurfer Shahar Zubari, judoka Alice Schlesinger and archer Guy Matzkin all took gold in other tournaments across the continent.
Israel's swimming delegation had two more reasons to celebrate on Friday after Jonatan Kopelev, Guy Barnea and Yakov Toumarkin had already earned medals earlier in the week. Amit Ivri, Israel's latest Olympic qualifier, added to her list of feats a bronze medal in the women's 100-meter butterfly with a time of 58.78 seconds. "It's a sense of great joy, but I'm turning to the Olympic Games, where I'll bring even more honor to Israel," she said.
Shortly after her race, Toumarkin jumped into the pool. At age 20, he became the first Israeli swimmer to win two medals at one championship. His result of 1:57.52 minutes, an Israeli record, earned him bronze in the men's 200-meter backstroke. "We have an amazing, unified delegation," he declared.
The championship meet in Debrecen, Hungary was without any doubt Israel's greatest of all time, and in Sunday it almost brought Israel a sixth medal, when Gal Nevo finished fourth in the men's 400-meter individual medley (4:16.14 minutes ). Still, Nevo guaranteed himself a second race in London.
The men's 4x100 medley team of Toumarkin, Imri Ganiel, Alon Mandel and Nimrod Shapira Bar- Or finished seventh in the final and has yet to qualify for the Olympics. Shapira Bar-Or also finished ninth in the men's 200-meter backstroke.
In artistic gymnastics, Shatilov has established himself as a regular on the podium at major international events, and the European Championships in Montpelier was no difference. On Sunday, the bronze medalist from the latest World Championships grabbed European bronze after scoring 15.166 - despite losing a tenth of a point for stepping off the mat.
Shatilov will receive a NIS 25,000 bonus from the Olympic Committee of Israel.
While other Israeli athletes are competing for Olympic spots, the battle between the windsurfers for the right to go to London has been decided. The men's picture completely flipped this week at the World Cup in Medemblik, Netherlands, where Nimrod Mashiah lost his chance to finish among the top three in the RS:X. As a result, Shahar Zubari booked his place at the Olympics at the last second by winning gold in the event while Mashiah finished sixth.
"It was a tough competition and an exhausting, long, nerve-wracking struggle," said Zubari after it was all over. "It's the first time that I was so tense, and it was palpable. I could barely eat and sleep, but I knew that I was going into the water and the pressure would pump me up. I had an amazing performance."
Despite run-ins earlier this year, Zubari remained civil about his rival. "Nimrod had a very impressive three-year run, and I consider him a good surfer and a wonderful athlete," he said. "We kept our poker faces, and no one wanted to blink first. Sometimes, it got carried away improperly. After it was all over, he shook my hand and wished me all the best."
Zubari said his journey has only just begin. "I want to reach the Olympics in the best shape possible," he said. "I don't want to disappoint myself there."
Judoka Alice Schlesinger found a great way to celebrate her 24th birthday on Saturday when she took gold in the 63-kg category at the prestigious Moscow Judo Grand Slam. On the way to the podium, she won three fights. In the final she defeated Germany's Martyna Trajdos by an ippon.
In archery, Guy Matzkin outshot Dutchman Rick van den Oever and Dan Olaru of Macedonia at the European Outdoor Target Championships in Amsterdam to punch his ticket to London on Friday.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now