This Week in History / May 28, 1972 / Left Out in the Cold

Aviva Balas set an Israeli record and won a medal, but never got to compete at the Munich Games.

At a prestigious competition at Lubeck, West Germany, medium-distance runner Aviva Balas set an Israeli record in the 800 meters in 2:05.8 minutes on May 28, 1972.

Balas shaved 0.70 seconds off the old record held by Hannah Shezifi, who had set the mark when she won gold at the 1970 Asian Games. She finished second, but fell just shy of the 2:05 mark needed to qualify for the Munich Olympics.

Considering the strong winds and the cold - it was seven degrees Celsius - during the race, the odds were in favor of her qualifying over the following three months. It was not to be.

After a spat with Shezifi, who was busy trying to qualify for the 1,500-meter race, Balas had trouble finding a training partner. They raced against each other only once at the Wingate Institute, where she failed to break 2:10. She then competed in Europe, which turned out to be a farce. She could not find anyone to compete against in Greece, then had to quit after being pushed by a Russian runner at the beginning of a race in Italy, and did poorly in Denmark.

Balas went to Munich anyway, but was not granted permission to enter the Olympic village. She was left without shelter, money or clothes apart from her training outfit until the Israeli delegation reached out to help her.

Her record, which was insufficient for Munich, held for 21 years. Only Edna Lankri and Noa Beitler have bettered what Balas accomplished 40 years ago.