Israeli judoka Linda Bolder missed her chance at winning an Olympic medal at the Rio Olympics Wednesday, when she was knocked out of the race in the quarterfinals of the under-70kg class.
Bolder, a Dutch-born 28 year old who immigrated to Israel with her Jewish husband in 2014, was beaten by the UK’s Sally Conway.
Bolder later lost a second fight to Spain’s Maria Bernabeu that could have put her on the path to a bronze medal through the repechage matches.
That was the path through which compatriot Yarden Gerbi won her bronze in the under-63kg competition on Tuesday, the first — and so far only — Israeli medal of the Rio games. Gerbi overcame an early loss in the quarterfinals to become the first Israeli Olympic medalist since 2008.
The 27-year-old 2013 world champion defeated Japan’s Miku Tashiru in the repechage to claim the third-place spot.
Gerbi became the seventh Israeli athlete in history to be honored on the Olympic podium. She was also only the second woman to have achieved this — the first being judoka Yael Arad, Israel’s first-ever medal winner, who took home the silver in Barcelona 1992.
Watch the moment Gerbi wins the bronze medal:
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An emotional Gerbi told the media after her victory: “I’m here to win, to give my heart and soul, and I still can’t believe it. Someone wake me up, I can’t believe it.
“My dream has come true. They say Israelis don’t have the character to succeed in sports on the world stage but we do have the character. I gave my life. It paid off. Whoever says Israelis can’t succeed is wrong. It does happen. It does happen.”
The first days of the Games featured a string of defeats for Israeli athletes at the Games. On Monday, judoka Sagi Muki lost in the men’s lightweight judo semifinals. Monday also saw Sergy Rikhter, Israel’s great Olympic hope in the men’s 10m air rifle, finish a disappointing 14th place with 623.8 points.
On Sunday, four Israeli athletes were knocked out of the Games, including judokas Golan Pollack and Gili Cohen, who both lost in the first round of their respective competitions.
Swimmer Amit Ivry, meanwhile, finished the 100-meter breaststroke in 1:09, falling short of the top 16 and missing her chance to move on to the semifinals. A short while later, Yakov Toumarkin finished the 100-meter backstroke in 54.66 seconds, which was not enough to push him into the next round.
On Saturday, Israeli judoka Shira Rishoni was disqualified from the Olympic Games on a technical foul during her first bout.