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Tokyo 2020

For Israeli triathlete brothers, the Olympics is a family affair

Shachar and Ran Sagiv complete the men’s triathlon in 20th and 35th place, respectively, setting a new Israeli record

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

Brothers and Israeli Olympic triathletes Ran (left) and Shachar Sagiv, after the triathlon at the Tokyo Games on July 26, 2021. (Israel Olympic Committee)
Brothers and Israeli Olympic triathletes Ran (left) and Shachar Sagiv, after the triathlon at the Tokyo Games on July 26, 2021. (Israel Olympic Committee)

After slicing through the water, pedaling their bikes for kilometers and topping it off with a sprint, Israeli Olympic triathletes and brothers Shachar and Ran Sagiv are rightfully proud of their achievements.

Shachar, 26, finished Monday’s race in 20th place out of the 51-man field, and Ran crossed the finish line in 35th place following the grueling event. The race — a 1.5-kilometer swim, followed by a 40-kilometer bike race and capped off by a 10-kilometer run — was won by Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, who fell to the ground after crossing the finish line, as did many athletes after completing the arduous competition in Tokyo’s hot and humid weather.

“It was an incredibly exciting competition,” Shachar told a video press conference for Israeli media outlets from Tokyo later Monday. “Now both my brother and I can always call ourselves Olympic athletes.”

“It was our first time on the Olympic stage, which was really incredibly exciting,” said Ran, “and I’m glad that we could also make a lot of people in Israel happy.”

The brothers were only the second and third Israeli Olympic triathletes in history, and Shachar’s 20th-place finish is the highest ever for an Israeli.

“I’m really, really, really happy,” he said. “We made history, both for the record and for being two brothers competing — we really did something today that we can both be very satisfied with.”

Brothers and Israeli Olympic triathletes Ran (left) and Shachar Sagiv at a press conference from Tokyo on July 26, 2021. (Screenshot)

Coach Uri Zilberman said he was impressed with their performance.

“They really gave the competition their all. It’s a very challenging and difficult competition… I’m incredibly proud of them,” he said.

The brothers, natives of Zichron Yaakov, are the sons of Shemi Sagiv (at the time known as Sabag), who represented Israel as a marathon runner at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Competition, it seems, runs in the blood, and the brothers said their father has been rooting for them every step of the way.

“Unfortunately our dad couldn’t be here because of all the coronavirus restrictions, which was really disappointing, because for him too it was an insanely exciting moment that he’s waited for for so many years,” said Ran. “In the end, unfortunately he couldn’t be with us here, but we felt the support of all of our family, and of course our first call [after the race] was to dad — and mom.”

Shachar said his father is “very pleased” with their performance, adding: “Everyone is excited, mom as well, everyone is very proud of us.”

Left to right, Manoel Messias of Brazil, Rostislav Pevtsov of Azerbaijan and Ran Sagiv of Israel compete during the men’s individual triathlon at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

And just hours after completing the exhausting two-hour event, both brothers already have their sights set on the future.

“Our season isn’t over. In September we have more competitions and we’re looking to keep up the level of fitness we’re currently in,” said Shachar.

Ran echoed that sentiment: “We’re at the peak of the season. It’s definitely not the end, there are more international competitions… we want to keep up momentum and keep moving forward.”

And the next major goal? The 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, of course.

“The next goal is Paris, and the criterion for the Olympics begins already in May,” said Shachar. “We’re heading full power toward May.”

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