Tokyo 2020

No pressure: Israel’s hopes for Olympic gold rest on gymnast’s Sunday routine

Artem Dolgopyat a medal favorite after ranking 1st in qualifying round; Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko to compete in triple jump final; baseball team has one last chance against Mexico

Israel's Artem Dolgopyat competes in the pommel horse event of the artistic gymnastics men's qualification during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo on July 24, 2021. (Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)
Israel's Artem Dolgopyat competes in the pommel horse event of the artistic gymnastics men's qualification during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo on July 24, 2021. (Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

Two Israeli athletes will compete in Olympic finals in Tokyo Sunday, as the Jewish state hopes to expand its medal haul from the two bronzes it has netted so far.

The day’s most anticipated showing will be by gymnast Artem Dolgopyat, Israel’s best hope for a gold medal at this year’s games. Dolgopyat, a 24-year-old two-time world championship silver medalist, will compete at 11 a.m. (Israel time) in the floor exercise of men’s artistic gymnastics.

The gymnast was ranked first in the qualifying event after scoring 15.2.  If he does manage to clinch a gold medal, it will be only the second in the country’s history, following windsurfer Gal Fridman’s 2004 win in Athens.

Also taking part in a final will be Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko, who will compete in the women’s triple jump medal fight at 2:15 p.m. (Israel time).

At 6:00 a.m. in Israel, the national baseball team will hope to reverse its losing streak as it faces Mexico, after being defeated by South Korea (5-4) and the US (8-1). A loss in this game will knock the team out of the contest.

At that same time, Noya Bar Am and Shahar Tibi will compete in windsurfing in the women’s 470 races 7 and 8.

Israel’s Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko competes in the final of the women’s triple jump athletics event at the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 7, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Andrej ISAKOVIC)

Earlier, at around 4:00 a.m. in Israel, Adva Cohen took part in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase qualification race, but finished last.

In semi-Israeli news, Russian tennis player Aslan Karatsev (who spent his childhood in Israel but has not lived in the country since age 12) will compete for the gold in the tennis mixed doubles finals after he and partner Elena Vesnina defeated world no. 1 Novak Djokovic and his partner Nina Stojanovic Friday.

Karatsev and Vesnina will face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev in an all-Russian final Sunday. The time for the match has yet to be determined.

The Russian Olympic Committee mixed doubles team of Elena Vesina, right, and Aslan Karatsev celebrate after winning their semifinals match of the tennis competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 30, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Saturday saw Israel clinch its second medal of the games, winning the judo mixed team bronze. The team scored a victory over their Russian opponents in the consolation round of an event being held for the first time this year.

The medal served as a heartening conclusion to a week of frustration for Israeli judo — one of the country’s strongest sports — as fighters all lost their individual efforts to win medals.

Timna Nelson-Levy of Israel reacts after defeating Daria Mezhetskaia of the Russian Olympic Committee in their bronze medal match in team judo competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics, on July 31, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Top judoka Sagi 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.

Added Peter Paltchik: “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 Peter Paltchik celebrates his victory over Russia’s Tamerlan Bashaev in the judo mixed team’s bronze medal B bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, on July 31, 2021. (Jack Guez/ AFP)

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 Israeli team, including to judokas who did not compete but were registered as team members on Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Yoav Cohen finished in first place in the Men’s RS:X Windsurfing final race on Saturday, but it was not enough to put him on the podium, with the Israeli coming in fourth overall.

Israel’s Yoav Cohen competes during the rs:x men’s race at the Enoshima harbour during the 2020 Summer Olympics, on July 28, 2021, in Fujisawa, Japan. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Also 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 Itay Shanny competes in the men’s individual eliminations during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field in Tokyo, on July 31, 2021. (Adek Berry/AFP)

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.

See the full Olympics schedule for Israel’s athletes here.

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