Yesterday was, if you'll excuse the pun, a watershed moment in the career of Yakov Toumarkin. For the first time, the 19-year-old swimmer was participating in the World Championships and competing in the 200-meter backstroke. In an extraordinary performance, he achieved all three of the goals he set himself: a new Israeli record (1:58.21 minutes ), a place in the semifinal and a ticket to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

"I managed to put all of the pressure out of my mind and just pretended I was competing in a club competition in Israel," Toumarkin told Haaretz yesterday. "I am delighted at the record and the Olympic qualification, but I can't say I'm surprised, even though there are several up-and-coming swimmers of my age in this event. I knew that if they could make the Olympics, so could I."

In the semifinal, however, the pomp and circumstance clearly got to Toumarkin. "There was a lot more show: They introduced each swimmer, there were television cameras doing close-ups and there were far more people in the crowd. I tried to put all of that out of my mind, but it's impossible to just ignore it. Something just didn't click; I didn't have the same energy I had in the heat. Obviously, I'm delighted with all that I have achieved, but I was left with a slightly bitter taste by my performance in the semifinal."