Commentary / Higher and Higher

Here are three reasons why Alex Shatilov is our great gold hope to finally put Israel on the actual Olympic sports map.

Three characteristics stand out when it comes to Alex Shatilov, who won the silver medal Saturday in the floor exercise of the European Championships; perseverance, promise and ambition.

Perseverance: He finished third place in Europe two years ago and second place this weekend, as well as a bronze in the 2009 world championships and fourth place in the last year's world competition. He also qualified for the final in Beijing.

Alex Shatilov

Shatilov - nice, professional and modest - continues to show year after year that he is one of the best in the world in the floor exercise, that he is rightfully so Israel's greatest hope for a medal in London. Besides talent, the power of will and a great coach, he also has the perseverance to win. When you practice hours day in day out over several years, this trait becomes part and parcel of your personality.

Promise: Shatilov doesn't give himself an inch. At the end of the day, he received his athletic training in a real sports country - Russia. The gymnast is no longer potential but much more. There's no telling what will be in London, but Shatilov embodies the fulfillment of dreams.

With all due respect to windsurfers Shahar Zubari and Nimrod Mashiah, one of whom will qualify for the London Olympics and maybe even contest a medal; and all love intended for Israel's judokas, among whom at least a few are bound to make a bid for the medals podium, these sports barely interest anyone outside Israel. We only care becuase we have contenders in them.

Artistic gymnastics is something else completely. Everyone's eyes are fixed during the Olympics on this graceful discipline. In Beijing, gymnastics got the third highest ratings among American viewers of the Games (opening ceremony aside ).

Shatilov deserves to be considered Israel's leading athlete, certainly among individual sports. And everyone should know this - the Olympic Committee of Israel, the Sports Association and the press.

Ambition: He is tall for a gymnast, aesthetic in his performances, and his exercises are a delight to the eyes, but he excels in another trait - will. When Shatilov says, "I can win every competition," he isn't shy to aim as high as possible.

Yael Arad, Israel's first Olympic medalist, once said that whoever thinks about winning silver or bronze will finish fourth. It's no coincidence she was the trailblazer. Shatilov - armed with this attitude - can be the man who brings Israeli athletics to even greater heights.