Tokyo Paralympics: In First, Arab Swimmer Iyad Shalabi Wins Gold for Israel

Competing in the Paralympic Games for the fourth time, Shalabi beat Ukrainian Anton Kol in a photo finish

Iyad Shalabi during the men's 100m backstroke event at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, on Wednesday.
Iyad Shalabi during the men's 100m backstroke event at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, on Wednesday.Credit: Molly Darlington/Reuters

Iyad Shalabi won a gold medal Wednesday in the 100-meter backstroke (S1 classification) at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

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In the last few meters, Ukrainian Anton Kol was on the edge of catching up to Shalabi, but was unable to, finishing less than three tenths of a second behind him. Shalabi finished with a final time of 2:28.04; Kol finished at 2:28.29, and Italian Francesco Bettella won the bronze with a time of 2:32.08.

The 34-year-old Shalabi made it to the final with the best time – 2:25.51, which was over four seconds faster than his Ukrainian counterpart. Shalabi is the first Arab Israeli to win a medal at either the Paralympics or the Olympics.

The Tokyo Paralympics mark Shalabi's fourth appearance at the competition, but this is the first time the swimmer, who trains in Haifa, has won a medal. This is Israel's first medal at the Paralympics, already on the competition's first day.

Iyad Shalabi of Israel reacts after winning gold at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, on Wednesday.Credit: Molly Darlington/Reuters

In 2018, Shalabi set a record in the 150-meter mixed race (S1 classification).

Earlier in the day, Israeli Yulia Gordichuk wasn't able to qualify for the 400-meter freestyle final. The swimmer, who trains at the same Haifa facility as Shalabi, got a tenth place finish out of 14 swimmers in the preliminary round, achieving a time of 4:58.50.

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