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The European swimming championships in Madrid (May 5-16) is an important event in itself, but it also provides the last chance for several Israeli swimmers to qualify for the Olympics this summer in Athens. Ania Gostamelski's test will come today in the 200-meter backstroke. Her best time in this event is 2:15.45, less than half a second above the Olympic criterion of 2:14.90.

So far, only one Israeli swimmer has secured an Olympic slot: Vered Borochovski, in the 100-meter butterfly. Of the 12 Israelis competing in Madrid, four swimmers still have realistic hopes of participating in the Athens games: Gostamelski, Shai Livnat, Mickey Halika and Shilo Ayalon. The Olympic criteria for Livnat in the 200-meter freestyle is 1:50.48 and Halifa must make a time of 4:20.61 in the 400-meter individual medley. Ayalon is more of a longshot; he'll need to clock an extraordinary time (maybe even an Israeli record) to qualify in the 1,500-meter freestyle after failing to meet the criterion in the U.S. championships in February.

"We expect two or three swimmers to join Vered at the end of the championships," says swimming director Gili Lustig. "I think that Shai Livnat should do this and also Gostamelski based on their latest results. I hope that Halika will too."

Livnat is also scheduled to swim today, but not in his Olympic event (the 200-meter freestyle). He'll compete today in the 400-meter freestyle, where his best time - and the Israeli record - is 3:45.32.

Borochovski is slated to swim today in the 50-meter butterfly. She holds the Israeli record in this event - 27.83 seconds.