Israeli swimmer booed in Qatar says ‘I’m here with the Israeli flag, and I’m proud of that’

Gold medalist Freya Constance Colbert of Great Britain, right, comforts silver medalist Anastasia Gorbenko of Israel, after she was booed by the spectators at the end of the Women's 400m Individual Medley final at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha, Qatar, February 18, 2024. (AP Photo/ Hassan Ammar)
Gold medalist Freya Constance Colbert of Great Britain, right, comforts silver medalist Anastasia Gorbenko of Israel, after she was booed by the spectators at the end of the Women's 400m Individual Medley final at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha, Qatar, February 18, 2024. (AP Photo/ Hassan Ammar)

Israeli swimmer Anastasia Gorbenko reacts calmly to being booed after winning a silver medal in Doha, Qatar, saying it is not the first time she has been jeered at the event.

“I’ve been here a week. I heard all these noises, but I’m with earplugs. I’m in my zone. I’m here to do what I love to do, which is sports,” she tells reporters. “I’m here to represent my country… And I’m doing this with the Israeli flag and I’m proud of that. And whoever doesn’t like it, it’s just not my problem.”

Gorbenko says she had no hesitation about mounting the podium, but the booing had impacted her during the week.

“There was no way I was going to miss [the podium] just because some little kids are going to do whatever they want to,” she adds. “It does affect me emotionally. It’s been like a long week for me. I expected myself to do better than what I did.”

She says she will nevertheless not hesitate to swim at future events in Arab countries.

“At the end of the day, Israel is in the Middle East as well; I hope one day we’ll be able to make some peace with everyone,” she says.

Gorbenko, whose parents are Ukrainian, was born and raised in Israel. She says she has relatives in Ukraine and is concerned for them during the country’s war with Russia.

“I have relatives in Ukraine. Of course, it’s hard as well. But there’s nothing I can do,” she says. “Whatever I can do is do my best in the swimming pool and support my country and my family this way.”

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