Artem Dolgopyat Receives a Hero's Welcome Upon Return to Israel

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Artem Dolgopyat with his girlfriend today at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Artem Dolgopyat with his girlfriend today at Ben-Gurion Airport.Credit: Amir Cohen / Reuters

Artem Dolgopyat, the Israeli Olympic champion in floor gymnastics, was greeted by applause from the many Israelis who came to greet him when he landed at Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday.

"This is the warmest welcome that I have ever received in my life," Dolgopyat said. "I want to cry from excitement."

The gymnast said that his reception was "even more exciting than the medal," before smiling and adding, "I'm kidding."

Artem Dolgopyat at his reception at Ben-Gurion Airport today.Credit: Amir Cohen / Reuters

Dolgopyat spoke about the pressure during the final competition that he had "a lot of thoughts after my flawed performance," saying that "almost every contestant had a high chance of overtaking me," noting in particular the Chinese gymnast Xiao Ruoteng, who "did a really good exercise, but because of the low difficulty it was not enough."

The gold medalist did not forget to thank his teammate, Alex Shatilov, who inspired him to pursue gymnastics when he saw him perform at the age of 12, saying that "he began this path."

He said that he hopes that "new gymnasts will follow me who will achieve such results."

Shatilov himself spoke, congratulating Dolgopyat: "I am excited along with everyone else. It is gratifying to see small children here. I am sure that Artem is now an example to children as I was an example to him."

Israeli gymnastics will "improve in the future in terms of achievements," Shatilov added, before ammending that "It is impossible to reach a higher achievement, but at least we will reproduce it."

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