Yakov Toumarkin on Wednesday became only the second Israeli swimmer to reach the final of an Olympic event by finishing fifth in the semifinal of the men's 200m backstroke event. He also equaled the Israeli national record that he had set earlier in the day in the heats – 1:57.33 minutes.
Later on Wednesday, Gal Nevo finished fourth in the semifinal of the men's Olympics 200m individual medley. Unlike Toumarkin, however, Nevo's semifinal time was not enough to reach a place in the finals, and he finished tenth overall.
Swimming in lane six, Toumarkin got off to a relatively slow start, completing the first 50 meters in a time 28.02 seconds, leaving him in last place. An even slower second leg (29.79 seconds) failed to improve the 20-year-old's position and when he finished the penultimate leg in seventh place, his chances of making the final appeared to have sunk like a stone.
But with the other competitors flagging badly, Toumarkin rose up through the ranks and finished in fifth place in his heat. All that he could do thereafter was wait for the results of the second semifinal, knowing that if fewer than four swimmers matched or bettered his time, he would snag a place in the final.
Nick Driebergen of the Netherlands finished fourth in the second semifinal in a time of 1:57.35 minutes – two-hundredths of a second slower than Toumarkin – giving the Israeli swimmer a place in tonight's final.
Toumarkin, the slowest of the eight finalists, will swim in lane eight tonight. Among the big names he will come up against is American Ryan Lochte, who has already won two gold medals and one silver medal at the London Games and will be hoping to add to his tally.
The first Israeli swimmer to make it to a final swimming event was Eitain Orbach, who came eighth in the men's back-stroke finals in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Earlier, Israel's Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich made it through to the quarterfinals of the men's doubles tennis event at the London Olympics, after stunning the sixth-seeded pairing of Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka in three sets.
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