The Israeli Track and Field Championships begin today in arguably one of the most difficult periods for Israeli athletics. The current Olympic delegation currently includes only one track and field athlete, pole vaulter Jillian Schwartz, assuming that marathon runner Zohar Zmiro has lost his place due to testing positive for performance-enhancing substances. Still, 19-year-old high jumper Dmitry Kroyter, formerly world youth champion, still hopes to join the delegation after two years of being plagued by injuries as well as a personal tragedy.
Still, Kroyter sees the national championships as an excellent opportunity to clear the bar for London - 2.28 meters. "I believe I'm in the best shape of my life," he says. "I also feel good, and now I just have to make it count in the important competitions." Nonetheless, Kroyter won't feel too discouraged if he doesn't succeed in Hadar Yosef: "I have to clear the Olympic standard [no later than] the European Championships in Helsinki at the end of June. That will be the last major tournament, so I hope to get there at the peak of my form. The Israeli Championships, as far as I'm concerned, is a preparatory tournament for Helsinki."
Kroyter is realistic: "I can't tell you right now that I'll succeed. I really don't know. I'm calm because I know I've gone over that height in the past, and I believe I can do it again. Have no doubt: I'll take the Israeli Championships very seriously. I love the fans here and don't want to let them down. I just returned from a few competitions abroad, and saw how the fans support the local athletes. It's really wonderful to get such support and hear the fans call your name, and maybe they'll help me get the right score. In any case, I'll give it my very best."
Kroyter, who immigrated to Israel with his family in 1999, cannot imagine missing out on the London games after dreaming of participating the Olympics since he was a child. The Olympic standard is equal to Kroyter's record, set in Hadar Yosef more than a year ago. Various injuries in the last couple of years halted his progress, but in the last few competitions he's been back on form. At the end of May, he passed 2.23 in a competition in France, a result he considers "one step before the real thing." "I'll spare no effort to reach the games," he adds. "For me, it's the most important thing. Participating in the games would be a huge accomplishment in my life. It would be confirmation that I succeeded in something I've been working on for many years. Only precious few athletes reach the Olympics and I want to be one of them. I've had a difficult two years with all the injuries, but this summer I have a chance to begin anew and fulfill my dreams. I really enjoy competing now, and don't want my season to be over too soon. I believe the more I compete the more I improve, and by the time the season ends in August, I might set some good scores." Apart from struggling with his injuries, Kroyter had to deal with the grief of seeing his older brother, Evgeni, succumb to illness at the beginning of the year. Kroyter says he's trying to leave painful memories behind. "Fortunately, not everyone has to go through what we went through," he says. "Every one of us chose a different way to deal with the experience. I know my brother wouldn't ever want to do anything that would harm my career, or make me lose my focus. I know he would be angry if he knew that his death would harm my preparations, so immediately after his death, I decided to get over it as soon as possible. I love him so, and if I reach the Olympics I know it would have made him very, very happy."
No other Israelis are expected to meet the London standard in their events in at the championships. The only other athlete who might do so is also a high jumper, Ma'ayan Foreman, and this causes Kroyter pride in Israeli high jumpers and confidence in the special project aimed at improving their performance.
"I believe the high jumpers project is really important, and above all, it simply works. The people who lead the project are trying to improve it all the time, and to find new ways so that we can improve our results. And it works every time. Before the project began my personal best was 2.21, and I've improved by seven centimeters since. I really hope no one will decrease the project's budget. We might lose out on some really great jumpers."
What do the next few weeks hold for him? "I believe that right not I should practice endlessly and focus on my technique. In my mind I already know I belong in the London games. That's how I behave, and I believe it will work out."
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