Swimming World Championships / Iran's Team Dives Into Israel Boycott

Mohammed Alirezaei of Iran does not start a heat that also features Gal Nevo in the 100-meter breaststroke; Nevo finishes 45th, while Alirezaei is the only athlete in the 83-man field who does not start.

SHANGHAI − The Israeli swim team has expressed disappointment after an Iranian competitor withdrew from a heat against one of its athletes at the world championships. Mohammed Alirezaei of Iran did not start a heat that also featured Gal Nevo in the 100-meter breaststroke Sunday.

“Unfortunately, this is what usually happens − it’s crazy,” Yitzhak Kramer, the head of the Israeli delegation, told The Associated Press yesterday. “This competition is about sport, not politics, and you need to separate the two. That’s what is supposed to be nice about sport.

Shapira Ben-Or - AFP - 26072011

Nevo finished 45th, while Alirezaei was the only athlete in the 83-man field who did not start.

The Iranian team was unavailable for immediate comment, and swimming governing body FINA was not aware of what happened. “We have to understand the situation first,” said FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu. “If this is the case there’s no point in coming to the world championships. We don’t need these politics in our sport.”

The Israelis were not seeking any punishment. “We don’t ask. If someone wants to behave like a child we don’t care,” Kramer said.

Alirezaei also pulled out of an event against another Israeli, Tom Beeri, in this event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, however the International Olympic Committee accepted the explanation that he was ill. Israel coach Chanan Sterling said he was told that Alirezaei was sick again.

A similar case occurred at the 2004 Athens Olympics when an Iranian judo athlete did not compete against an Israeli opponent, and Iranian government officials were quoted in state media as congratulating him for doing so.

Iran does not recognize Israel and bans any contact with the Jewish State.

Yesterday, Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or qualified for the semifinal of the 200 meter freestyle, but he finished in 15th place with a time of 48.59 seconds. He became the first on the team to qualify for the London Olympics.

Israelis In Shanghai

Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or, 200 meter freestyle, 1st semifinal, 48:59 sec, 15th place
Anya Volchikov, 100 meter backstroke, qualification, 3:12 min, 34th place
Guy Barnea, 100 meter breastroke, qualification, 55.12 sec (16th-17th place), lost tiebreaker
Yonatan Kopalev, 100 meter breastroke, qualification, 54.90 sec, 25th place

Tuesday (semifinals 13:00-15:00 for those who qualify):
Gal Nevo, 200 meter butterfly, qualification
Anya Volchikov, 50 meter backstroke, qualification
Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or, 100 meter freestyle, qualification
Gal Nevo, 200 meter medley, qualification