After a long and largely disappointing World Championships, Israeli swim fans finally have something to cheer about. On the penultimate day of competition on Saturday, two Israelis made the final of the Men's 50-meter backstroke event in Barcelona. Along with France, Israel will be the only country with two representatives in today's final.
Racing side by side in the first semi-final, Guy Barnea and Jonathan Kopelev finished first and fourth respectively, to book their places in the final. Barnea came home in a time of 24:73 seconds, with Kopelev a fraction slower at 24:95. Kopelev had an agonizing wait to see whether his time was enough for a place in the final, and, thanks to relatively weak performances by the swimmers in the second semi-final, his place was assured.
For both swimmers, Saturday evening's semi-final was the second race of the day, having competed earlier in the heats. Barnea – whose time of 24:64 second at the 18th Maccabiah is still the national record – was first into the water. He started his heat strongly, but slowed noticeably in the middle, before a spurt in the final few meters saw him finish fourth in his heat (25:01 seconds) and eighth overall. Immediately after Barnea, Kopelev also finished his heat in fourth place (in a time of 25:17 seconds), giving him 12th place overall and a spot in the semi-final.
There was to be disappointment, however, in the women's 50-meter breast for Amit Ivry. Despite smashing the national record in the heats – the third Israeli record she has broken in Barcelona – her time was not good enough for a place in the semi-final.