With a gold medal dangling around her neck, Israeli Olympic champion Linoy Ashram was given a hero’s welcome Wednesday when she arrived back in Israel following the end of the Olympic Games in Tokyo earlier this week.
Ashram, who won the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around event on Saturday, was received at the airport by hundreds of friends, family members and fans who had prepared signs emblazoned with the new Olympic champion’s face and messages of support.
“I have no words. This is one of the craziest experiences I have had in my life. I will not forget this reception my whole life. Thank you all for your love and warmth,” Ashram told the crowd.
“I am delighted to finally be back in Israel. You are the best crowd of people anyone could ask for,” she said, beaming.
Standing alongside teammate Nicol Zelikman, who finished seventh in the final, Ashram thanked “all those who came here to receive Nicol and me after our crazy achievement.”
She also thanked her coaches who she said were “a huge part of the success.”
Ashram is the first Israeli woman to win a gold medal at the Olympics. The rhythmic gymnast won Israel’s third Olympic gold medal six days after artistic gymnast Artem Dolgopyat won Israel’s second. Israeli windsurfer Gal Fridman won the first gold for Israel in Athens in 2004.
The Tokyo Games are thus Israel’s most successful ever, since the country had never previously won more than two medals at any one Olympics.
Ashram’s victory ended over two decades of Russian dominance in the sport, and sparked outrage from the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), which vowed to file a complaint with the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) and demanded a probe into the judging process.
Ashram led the Tokyo finals for rhythmic gymnastics for the first three rounds with almost flawless performances and clung to her lead, despite a mistake in her closing ribbon routine, to win with 107.800 points overall, just 0.150 ahead of Russian competitor Dina Averina.
Ashram has been competing in international contests since 2014. She now has 92 medals from various international competitions under her belt.
Asked on Wednesday if she was planning on defending her title at the 2024 Olympic Games, Ashram said: “No decisions have been made yet. I am first of all experiencing this moment, enjoying the result and the hard work I have put in over the last five years.”
She said that after “letting my body rest,” she will “see where things progress and where it will lead me.”