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Tokyo 2020

Despite record efforts, Israeli Olympic swimmers come up short in latest races

Andi Murez sets a new Israeli mark in women’s 100m freestyle, while Gal Cohen Groumi and Ron Polonsky both swim personal best times — but all miss qualifying for semifinals

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel.

Israeli swimmer Andi Murez competes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on July 28, 2021. (Simona Castrovillari/Israel Olympic Committee)
Israeli swimmer Andi Murez competes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on July 28, 2021. (Simona Castrovillari/Israel Olympic Committee)

Five Israeli swimmers dove into the pool Wednesday evening at the Olympic Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, but — facing stiff competition — failed to advance to the semifinal rounds.

Anastasia Gorbenko, 17, one of Israel’s strongest swimming contenders, came last in her heat in the women’s 200m breaststroke. Andi Murez, a US native who is halfway through medical school, also finished her heat in the women’s 100m freestyle in last place, and won’t appear in the semifinals — although she set a new Israeli record in the race.

Wednesday marked the final individual event for Gorbenko. Both she and Murez will compete on Thursday in the mixed 4 x 100m medley relay — the first mixed-gender swimming event at the Olympics.

Also Wednesday, both Ron Polonsky and Gal Cohen Groumi competed in the men’s 200m individual medley race. Although both swimmers gave impressive performances — and both set new personal records — it wasn’t enough in the crowded and competitive field to advance to the semifinals.

Yakov Toumarkin, one of Israel’s flag bearers at the opening ceremony last week, competed in the men’s 200m backstroke on Wednesday, but did not advance.

In addition to the mixed medley race on Thursday — with Murez, Gorbenko, Cohen Groumi and Itay Goldfaden — Tomer Frankel will compete in the men’s 100m butterfly qualification, and Aviv Barzelay in the women’s 200m backstroke qualification. On Friday, Murez will swim in the women’s 50m freestyle.

Israeli swimmer Ron Polonsky competes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on July 28, 2021. (Simona Castrovillari/Israel Olympic Committee)

Gorbenko became the first ever Israeli female swimmer to advance to the Olympic finals this week. Though she finished in last place in the 100m backstroke, she told reporters on Tuesday that she brings everything she has to each race: “My goal is always to advance as far as possible, and to break my own personal records on the biggest stage there is in swimming, and I hope we’ll succeed in doing it.”

Murez — who also competed for Israel at Rio in 2016 — told The Times of Israel before departing from Israel that she’s in the best shape of her life. “I’ve had a lot of amazing opportunities to learn in the last five years, so I feel a lot more prepared, and I’m super excited,” she said. “If I can inspire other women, and other kids to have big dreams, then that makes me really happy.”

Earlier Wednesday, Itay Shanny — the first ever Israeli Olympic archer — scored a massive upset to reach the last 16 in the men’s individual competition at the Tokyo Olympics, despite placing 60th out of 64 competitors in the initial ranking round. Meanwhile, judoka Li Kochman was knocked out of the men’s -90kg category and Israeli sailor Katy Spychakov had disappointing results in her third day of competition.

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