Israel’s national rhythmic gymnastics team took home the silver Sunday in the World Championship in Izmir Turkey. The achievement was the culmination of a year of training. Three years ago another Israeli team won the bronze.
Security questions cast a shadow over the team’s departure for Turkey. The leaders of the Israeli gymnastics association even considered pulling out from the competition, but they knew that a no-show in Izmir would mean they would not be placed for the world championships at Rio de Janeiro. So as not to try the patience of the world rhythmic gymnastics officials, and in light of the satisfactory security arrangements, the team took off to score its historic victory.
Alona Kushewtzki, Ida Meirin, Yuval Pilo, Katia Levín and Karina Lichber were all born from 1997 and 1998. They are the youngest members of the team and have been working together only since last year. After coming in fourth in the preliminaries, Sunday’s performance was impressive and dynamic, with no fumbles or major mistakes, earning the team a score of 16.983 points. Spain placed before Israel with 17.433 points. The Bulgarian and Italian teams, which were both ahead of Israel in the preliminary rounds, both dropped their batons, paving the way for Israel to come in second.
The picture on the podium was special – 15 slender girls ages 16 and 17. The five Israelis, who worked 10 hours a day to create a faultless performance, were ranked second in the world.
The team’s coach, Ira Vigdorchik, prepared her team in the shadow of war. “It was a hard time with lots of sadness, but God sent us girls who can achieve a medal. I believe they can earn an Olympic medal but it will take a lot of political work because this is a subjective sport. The world has to get used to the fact that a medal for Israel is not coincidental and we can do it like Russia, Belarus and Bulgaria. It takes time and we are not exactly loved in the world. We are Jews and to teach non-Jews to love Israel and the Jews is not easy.”