Gal Nevo
Gal Nevo Photo by AP
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Gal Nevo yesterday booked his place in the 2012 London Olympics, thanks to a time of 1:59.87 minutes in a heat of the 200-meter individual medley at the World Championships in Shanghai.

Nevo's 15th-place finish was also good enough for a place in the semifinal, but he then missed out on a place in the final by an agonizing 0.21 seconds.

Given that this was not Nevo's strongest event, hopes are high that he will still become the first Israeli at the championships to reach a final, though a medal seems highly unlikely.

More importantly, however, is the fact that after several days of making headlines for the wrong reasons, Nevo is back to letting his performance in the pool do his talking for him.

Earlier this week, he caused something of a storm after the heats of the breaststroke event, when he said, "At least I beat all the Arabs I was competing against." But Nevo played down both his comments and the subsequent storm, preferring instead to look ahead to Sunday's 400-meter medley event.

"Every day I feel more and more comfortable in the water," he told Haaretz yesterday. "My confidence is growing, too, and I believe that I can make the final.

"Two years ago in Rome, I finished ninth, but this time I was much closer to making the final in terms of my time," he added. "I feel like a racing driver who's been given a new car: I know I can go faster, I just need to get used to the change."

But national team coach Leonid Kaufman admitted that Nevo will not find it easy to qualify for the final. "There are seven swimmers who are definitely better than him," he said. "Gal needs to be in top form and beat all the others if he wants to make the final."