search
Going for gold

Got rhythm? Gymnastics a top medal hope for Israel in Rio

From wrestlers to windsurfers, several sabras in Israel’s largest-ever team have a shot at making the podium in Brazil

Luke Tress is an editor and a reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Israel's rhythmic gymnastics team receives the gold medal at the the 32nd Rhythmic Gymnastics European championships 2016 at the Holon Toto Hall in Holon on June 19, 2016. (Courtesy Israel Gymnastic Association Facebook)
Israel's rhythmic gymnastics team receives the gold medal at the the 32nd Rhythmic Gymnastics European championships 2016 at the Holon Toto Hall in Holon on June 19, 2016. (Courtesy Israel Gymnastic Association Facebook)

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.

Judo

Yarden Gerbi

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.

Yarden Gerbi celebrates her victory over Abe Kana from Japan in the semifinal of the World Judo Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, August 29, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Silvia Izquierdo)
Yarden Gerbi celebrates her victory over Abe Kana from Japan in the semifinal of the World Judo Championships in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, August 29, 2013. (AP/Silvia Izquierdo)

 

Sagi Muki

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.

Israeli judoka Sagi Muki with his gold medal at the European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan on June 27, 2015. (Amit Shissel/(Israeli Olympic Committee)
Israeli judoka Sagi Muki with his gold medal at the European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan on June 27, 2015. (Amit Shissel/Israeli Olympic Committee)

 

Rhythmic Gymnastics

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=DWigwhgL0Uk

Wrestling

Ilana Kratysh

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AH3hx1KItbQ

Athletics

Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko

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.

Israeli athlete Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko captures the silver in the women's triple jump final during the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam, on July 10, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI)
Israeli athlete Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko captures the silver in the women’s triple jump final during the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam, on July 10, 2016. (AFP/Fabrice Coffrini)

 

Sailing

Shahar Zubari

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.

Israeli windsurfer Shahar Zubari (photo credit: Marko/Flash90/File)
Israeli windsurfer Shahar Zubari (Marko/Flash90/File)

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed