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Tokyo 2020'Thank you all for your love and warmth'

‘Delighted to be back in Israel’: Olympic champion Linoy Ashram welcomed as hero

‘I will not forget this reception my whole life,’ says gold medal gymnast to hundreds of supporters gathered at airport to greet her after Tokyo victory

  • Olympic Gold medalist Linoy Ashram (L) and teammate Nicol Zelikman at Ben Gurion Airport, August 11, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
    Olympic Gold medalist Linoy Ashram (L) and teammate Nicol Zelikman at Ben Gurion Airport, August 11, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
  • Olympic Gold medalist Linoy Ashram is greeted by press, family and friends as she arrives at Ben Gurion Airport after winning the Gold medal in the rhythmic gymnast at the Olympic Games in Japan, August 11, 2021. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)
    Olympic Gold medalist Linoy Ashram is greeted by press, family and friends as she arrives at Ben Gurion Airport after winning the Gold medal in the rhythmic gymnast at the Olympic Games in Japan, August 11, 2021. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)
  • Supporters of Rhythmic Gymnastics gold medalist Linoy Ashram wait for her outside at Ben Gurion Airport on August 11, 2021 upon her arrival from Tokyo. (Menahem KAHANA /AFP)
    Supporters of Rhythmic Gymnastics gold medalist Linoy Ashram wait for her outside at Ben Gurion Airport on August 11, 2021 upon her arrival from Tokyo. (Menahem KAHANA /AFP)
  • Olympic Gold medalist Linoy Ashram at Ben Gurion Airport after winning the Gold medal in the rhythmic gymnast at the Olympic Games in Japan, August 11, 2021 (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)
    Olympic Gold medalist Linoy Ashram at Ben Gurion Airport after winning the Gold medal in the rhythmic gymnast at the Olympic Games in Japan, August 11, 2021 (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)
  • Olympic Gold medalist Linoy Ashram (2L) is greeted by press, family and friends as she arrives at Ben Gurion Airport after winning the Gold medal in the rhythmic gymnast at the Olympic Games in Japan, August 11, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
    Olympic Gold medalist Linoy Ashram (2L) is greeted by press, family and friends as she arrives at Ben Gurion Airport after winning the Gold medal in the rhythmic gymnast at the Olympic Games in Japan, August 11, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

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.”

Olympic Gold medalist Linoy Ashram is greeted by press, family and friends as she arrives at Ben Gurion Airport after winning the Gold medal in the rhythmic gymnast at the Olympic Games in Japan, August 11, 2021. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

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.

As well as the two golds, Israel’s Olympic team had already picked up two bronze medals in Tokyo — by the judo mixed team, and by Avishag Semberg for taekwondo in the women’s -49kg category.

Olympic Gold medalist Linoy Ashram at Ben Gurion Airport after winning the Gold medal in the rhythmic gymnast at the Olympic Games in Japan, August 11, 2021. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

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.

Israeli gymnast Linoy Ashram performs during the rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, on Saturday, August 7, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP/Ashley Landis)

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.”

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