Paralympic swimmers Iyad Shalabi and Ami Dadaon each snagged a gold medal at the Toyko Games on Thursday, taking Israel’s total medal count to nine and continuing the country’s strong performance in the swimming events.
This means the 2020 Games are the most successful for the Jewish state since Athens 2004.
Six of Israel’s nine medals have been gold, and eight of them have been won by swimmers: three by Dadaon, three by Mark Malyar and two by Shalabi. The remaining medal was achieved by rower Moran Samuel.
Shalabi, who last week won Israel’s first medal at this year’s Games in the 100-meter backstroke race and became the first Arab Israeli to win a medal at either the Olympics or the Paralympics, took home his second gold medal Thursday in the men’s 50-meter backstroke with a time of 1:11.79.
Shalabi, 34, is competing at his fourth Paralympics in Tokyo, but his two gold medals are the first medals he has won.
He was born deaf to a Muslim family from Shfaram and is paralyzed in all four limbs following an accident at age 13. He competes in disability classification S1, reserved for those with the most severe activity limitations. He trains at a Haifa center run by ILAN — Israel Association for Children with Disabilities; his father, Yusef, is deeply involved.
A short while after Shalabi’s Thursday race, Dadaon won the men’s 50-meter freestyle final with a time of 37.21 seconds, a new Paralympic record. Ariel Malyar — Mark’s twin brother — finished seventh.
Until the start of this year’s Games, Israeli swimmers hadn’t won any Paralympic gold.