shatilov - Reuters - April 10 2011
Alex Shatilov competing at the Artistic Gymnastics European Championships in Berlin yesterday. Photo by Reuters
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For the past three years, Alex Shatilov has been Israel's best hope of coming back from the 2012 Olympic Games in London with a gold medal.

Having already picked up bronze medals at past European and World Championships, the 24-year-old gymnast yesterday added a silver medal to his haul in the floor event at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Berlin.

Shatilov was excruciatingly close to gold. In his final exercise, however, he slipped slightly and his landing was a little too long. The judges punished him with a score of 15.4 points, allowing Flavius Koczi to overtake him for the gold.

Speaking to Haaretz after the medal ceremony, Shatilov found it hard to disguise his disappointment.

"I don't think that the Romanian guy deserved to win gold, but that's just my opinion," he told Haaretz. "Gymnastics is a very subjective discipline and the judges obviously thought otherwise. I'm not going to get into an argument with them. It was a very tight competition."

For Shatilov, one of the Israeli athletes with the most consistently impressive results in recent years, the silver medal was "an important achievement," but still no more than a step in the right direction. His main goal remains the London Olympics next year, where, by all accounts, he has a very real chance of winning gold.

Shatilov and his coach, Sergei Weisberg, opted to focus on the floor event, which is Shatilov's strongest. The gamble paid off.

But before he can turn his mind to London, Shatilov is very aware that he still has to qualify.

"Next month I'm off to Moscow for the World Championships, which is one of the six competitions that the Israel Olympic Committee will be looking at when deciding whom to send to London," says Shatilov. "I hope to do well there and then I can really start to think about 2102."