Israel’s mixed team in judo won a bronze medal at the Olympics on Saturday, the nation’s second medal at the Tokyo games.
The team scored a victory over their Russian opponents in the consolation round of an event that is being held for the first time this year.
In the battle for bronze, Israeli judoka Gili Sharir lost to Madina Taimazova, giving a 1:0 lead to the Russians.
However Sagi Muki took his bout against Mikhail Igolnikov, bringing the Israelis level at 1:1.
Next up was Raz Hershko who beat Aleksandra Babintseva to take the Israelis ahead 2:1, before Peter Paltchik took the score to 3:1.
A final victory for Timna Nelson-Levy gave Israel a 4:1 win and a spot on the podium.
Muki said the whole team had given everything they had to win the medal.
“Everyone here gave their heart and soul, and together we did it,” he said.
After a week of losses for Israel’s judokas, Paltchik said that the team had finally come together on Saturday.
“Everyone had a week that was very disappointing on a personal level, but something about this special day led to everyone giving a little more for the team, and that’s what made the difference,” he said of the victory. “We were eulogized too soon.”
Israel’s podium place and Paltchik’s comment came just days after unnamed officials in Israel’s delegation to the Tokyo Olympics voiced strong criticism of the country’s judo team.
“This is a huge failure. Conclusions must be drawn as to how this collapse happened at the Olympics,” an unnamed delegation official was quoted as saying by the Ynet news site on Thursday.
“There is something systematic here, it isn’t a one-time failure, and all the judokas lost to inferior rivals,” the official said.
Earlier in the week, the Israeli Olympic Committee said in a statement that “summaries and conclusions will only be drawn at the end of the games when we return to Israel.”
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Israel won two bronzes in judo, bringing the country’s total of Olympic medals to nine (now eleven) — four in judo (now five), with the sport considered a source of national pride.
Eleven medals were awarded to the mixed team, including to judokas who did not compete but were registered as team members on Saturday morning.
Team member Gili Cohen who was not registered and also did not compete on Saturday did not get a medal despite appeals from Israeli officials.
On the path to the podium, the Israeli judo team scored a 4:2 victory over Brazil in the repechage earlier on Saturday.
Tohar Butbul won his first match in the round before Sharir lost to her opponent. A win for Li Kochman was shortly followed by a defeat for Hershko, leaving the score at 2:2.
Paltchik then took the score to 3:2 before Nelson-Levy won the deciding bout, with the final score at 4:2 in Israel’s favor.
Prior to that, Israel lost 4-3 to France in the quarter-finals after initially taking a strong lead 3-1. France fought back to level out the scores 3-3 before winning the final bout. The French team later beat Japan to take the gold.
In the previous elimination round of 16, Israel defeated Italy 4-3 — Sharir won two bouts, while Hershko and Paltchik also won. Sharir’s victory over individual bronze medalist Maria Centracchio was a tie-breaker in the competition.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Yoav Cohen finished in first place in the Men’s RS:X Windsurfing medal race on Saturday but it was not enough to put him on the podium, with the Israeli coming in fourth overall.
Earlier Saturday, Israeli archer Itay Shanny’s surprise Olympic run ended when he lost in the last eight in the men’s individual competition after a dramatic shoot off was needed to separate him from eventual victor Tang Chih-chun.
Shanny, who is the Jewish state’s first-ever archer to reach the Olympics, surprised with his run, knocking out two higher-ranked archers. Shanny had placed 60th out of 64 competitors in the initial ranking round.
Israel’s swimmers also finished 8th in the Olympic debut of the 4×100-meter mixed medley relay after a strong display to make the final.
Avishag Semberg’s taekwondo bronze in the women’s -49kg category last week was Israel’s first medal at the games until the mixed team’s win.