Israel is sending its largest-ever delegation to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and hopes are high despite a poor showing at the 2012 Games in London, where the team failed to bring home any medals. This year, Israelis can reasonably expect at least a couple of the country’s 47 competitors to make the podium.
Israeli athletes have won seven medals in 16 appearances at the games so far, including windsurfer Gal Fridman, who won Israel’s only gold medal in Athens in 2004.
Sailing and judo have traditionally been strong events for Israel, accounting for all of the country’s medals besides a bronze in canoeing in 2000. Athletes in both sports have a shot at a medal in Rio de Janeiro.
Judoka Yael Arad, who took silver in the Barcelona Games in 1992, remains the only Israeli woman to ever win an Olympic medal, but this year several women have a good chance of standing on the podium.
Here are some of Israel’s top contenders at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Gerbi won the 2013 World Championships and took silver in 2014. She has experienced several missteps recently but is currently ranked fifth in the 63-kilogram category.
The 27-year-old is based in Netanya and has been training in judo since the age of six. She heads a squad of four Israeli women who will compete in the sport in Brazil.
Muki, 24, is currently ranked third in the 73-kilogram category and won gold at the 2015 European Games. He trains in Netanya under national team coach Oren Smadja, who won bronze at the 1992 Olympics.
Gerbi, Muki and the rest of the judo team hope to continue Israel’s relative success in the sport at this year’s competition. In addition to the medals won by Smadja and Arad, whose medal was Israel’s first ever in the games, Ariel Zeevi placed third in Athens in 2004.
The rhythmic gymnastics team will make its third consecutive Olympic appearance after winning a gold medal in the European Championships in June.
The five-member, all-girl squad won the clubs and hoops category at the competition, which took place in the Israeli city of Holon. The team will compete in the all-around event in Rio de Janeiro. It is currently ranked third worldwide by the International Gymnastics Federation.
Kratysh, 26, became the first Israeli woman to qualify to wrestle in the Olympics when she won the World Qualification Tournament in Mongolia in April.
Kratysh lives in Haifa but has been training in Ukraine, and is a four-time silver medalist in the European championships. She will compete in the 69-kilogram category.
Triple-jumper Knyazyeva-Minenko, originally from Ukraine, won a silver medal at the World Championships in China last year. It was the first time an Israeli won a medal at the event since 2001, and the first time an Israeli woman stood on the podium.
At the 2012 Olympics, she took fourth place in the women’s triple jump event while still competing for Ukraine. The 26-year-old became an Israeli citizen in 2013.
Zubari, a windsurfer, won Israel’s last Olympic medal when he took a bronze home from the 2008 Games in Beijing. He grew up in Eilat on the Red Sea and began surfing at age seven. The 29-year-old is currently ranked sixth in the world and will be competing in the Olympics for the third time.