2012 Olympics

Sports minister to appoint panel to learn from disappointing Olympic results

Limor Livnat says Israel’s medal drought was a particular blow given the amount of money spent

Two of Israel's judokas, Arik Zeevi (right) and Alice Schlesinger at the entrance to the Israeli building at the Olympic village, July 26 (photo credit: courtesy of the Israeli Olympic Committee)
Two of Israel's judokas, Arik Zeevi (right) and Alice Schlesinger at the entrance to the Israeli building at the Olympic village, July 26 (photo credit: courtesy of the Israeli Olympic Committee)

Citing disappointing results for Israeli athletes in the 2012 Olympic games, Minister of Culture and Sports Limor Livnat announced on Wednesday that she will establish a committee of experts to look into this year’s failures in order to bring about better results in the next Olympics, set to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in the summer of 2016.

The Israeli delegation that arrived three weeks ago with such high hopes for success and medals had far more moments of disappointment than celebration in London. Windsurfer Shahar Tzuberi, a bronze medalist at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and world windsurfing champion Lee Korzits, who was in second place until the final day of competition, both failed in their medal bids, as did judoka Arik Zeevi, who won a bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics but was knocked out 43 seconds into his first contest in London.

Israel had several other competitors in tennis, swimming and judo who also faltered, leaving Israel without a medal for the first time since 1988.

Livnat said that the committee she intends to appoint will include experts from both Israel and abroad. “There is so much accumulated knowledge among nations who have enjoyed so much Olympic success,” she said, “and it is up to us to use their expertise in our renewed preparations… for the next Olympics.”

Despite the lack of medals, the London Olympics were not a complete loss for Israeli athletics. Swimmer Yakov Toumarkin finished seventh in the 200m backstroke finals, the highest final placement ever by an Israeli swimmer in the Olympics, and gymnast Alex Shatilov finished an impressive sixth in the tough floor exercise competition finals.

The minister had nothing but praise for the members of Israel’s 2012 delegation.”Every one of (our athletes) invested the very best of their efforts into winning an Olympic medal, and for that they have my gratitude and that of the Israeli public.”

However, Livnat also noted that the gap between the expectations of Israel’s athletes at this year’s games and the result of their efforts is difficult to understand, given that this year’s preparations received the largest amount of funding ever budgeted for Israeli Olympic participation.

Zvi Warshaviak, who has been the head of the Israeli Olympic Committee for 15 years, told an Israeli radio station that “the athletes received everything they needed, yet we still had no success. Perhaps the time has come for me to go home.”

Warshaviak said that what Israel needs to do is to “expand the pyramid,” by introducing more people to sports at an earlier age. He emphasized that change in sports cannot occur in three or four years, but took seven or eight years to show results.

Yehuda Ma’ayan, chairman of the Israel Yachting Association, blamed the poor sailing results on a lack of commitment by the athletes. Ma’ayan said that with the sole exception of Lee Korzits, he simply did not see the commitment in any of Israel’s sailors. “Tzuberi’s results were completely unacceptable, Gidi (Gideon Kliger) and Eran (Sela) crashed out early, and we were left with Gil (Cohen) and Vered (Buskila), who exhibited only moderate capability.”

Ma’ayan argued that money was not the issue. “We had the budget,” he said. “Perhaps we need to practice more, like the Australians,” who prepare for five months before the beginning of the Olympic games. Ma’ayan suggested that the solution to better future Olympic results lies in restructuring the entire system in a manner that would give the athletic associations more power and would distribute the funds differently.

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