Israeli swimmers have qualified for the Olympics’ first-ever mixed medley relay final after finishing fifth in Thursday’s semifinal heat and eighth overall.
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The team, consisting of Anastasia Gorbenko, Andi Murez, Itay Goldfaden and Gal Cohen Groumi, set a new Israeli record, finishing in 3 minutes, 43.94 seconds. Cohen Groumi gave up competing in the 100-meter butterfly heat to participate in the relay.
The moment the results went up on the board, showing that they had made the final, the swimmers began hugging each other. Their Israeli teammates – the closest thing they had to a crowd of fans at this year’s Games – began cheering nonstop and celebrated in the stands.
“We knew we were capable of this, that it would be really, really close,” said Gorbenko, who opened the relay with an excellent time in the 100-meter backstroke – 59.59 seconds. “We’re happy we succeeded, it’s fun. And we’re waiting impatiently to swim tomorrow.”
Gorbenko also said she thought this was better than making the finals in an individual event, because “we’re four people here at the global top. That’s something special that hasn’t happened for a long time.”
For Goldfaden, 25, who has never before even made it to the semifinals of a major championship, the achievement was especially exciting. “It’s crazy,” he said, noting that there hasn’t been an Israeli relay team in an Olympics final since the 1996 Games in Atlanta. “And it’s even the first Olympics to have this relay, the mixed medley.
“The fact that we reached the final – and everyone here gave a truly insane heat – it’s a different world,” he continued. “But we want to achieve a drop more. Tomorrow morning will be fun, and I hope you’ll also enjoy the end.”
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Asked whether the team believed it could rank higher in the final than the eighth place it is entering with, Cohen Groumi replied, “You also have to take the other teams into account – and some of them didn’t even put their strongest team here.
“But we came to set an Israeli record, because in our view, that would be a personal peak for all four of us. And I think that’s totally what we’re going for. Where we place matters less to us. We made it to the final, and we came only to set a record.”