Triathlon / European Championships / The heat is on in Eilat
Much of the southern city will close on Saturday as athletes swim, bike and run.
The city of Eilat has been busy this week, preparing for the first triathlon European Championship ever to be held in Israel. Athletes, including many of Europe's best, have been arriving all week, to compete in the event this weekend.
"We're very primed and excited," Idan Sandak, secretary general of the national triathlon association, told Haaretz on Thursday. "It's an exceptional event. We're closing off most of the city for the entire weekend."
Over 700 athletes from 35 nations, including 300 Israelis, will compete in the race, which consists of a 1,500 meter swim, a 40-km bike ride and 10-km run.
The men's event will include competitors from 25 countries; Spaniard Javier Gomez is the favorite. He is ranked first in the world and is the world champion as well as a former European champion. Also competing will be Russia's Alexander Bryukhankov, number six in the world, and Joao Silva of Portugal.
Israeli triathlon fans will be disappointed by the absence of the Alterman brothers, Ran and Dan. Ran, who failed to qualify for the London Olympics, was injured last year and only returned to the sport recently. Dan is preparing for competitions next month in Mexico and San Diego, where he will have a chance to book his place in the Olympiad.
The brothers told Haaretz they wanted to represent Israel, but that the timing was wrong. After years of sacrificing a lot to prepare for the Olympics, they had to make what they described as a very painful decision and pass up on Eilat.
Sandak said it was a real shame the Altermans won't be participating. "Ran and Dan are our leading athletes," he said. "We wanted to see them represent the country."
In their absence, Israel's top athlete this weekend will be 19-year-old Ron Dermon, one of the country's big hopes for the 2016 Rio Games.
'I'll give my all until my legs can't give any more,' vows Ron Dermon, Israel's top athlete in the race.
Dermon arrived from Australia this week, so he says he's a little tired but feels great and is ready. "Because this competition is at home, I want to put on a show, but first of all it's important to stick to the lead in the race. I'll give my all until my legs can't give any more. I feel on top of the swimming and riding, and I want to improve the running."
On the women's side, Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and Rachel Klamer of the Netherlands will be the leading participants among athletes from 22 countries. Israel's female representative in the race will be 20-year-old Fanny Beisaron, who finished in sixth place in the 2010 Youth Olympics. Beisaron was drafted into the IDF Wednesday and was given a temporary release to participate in this weekend's race.
In addition to the elite races tomorrow, the weekend will include European Championships for various age groups as well as a Paralympic race.