Record-breaking Israeli Olympian swimmer: I’m not done yet
With more competitions to come, 17-year-old Anastasia Gorbenko says her goal ‘is always to advance as far as possible, and to break my own personal records’
Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel
Anastasia Gorbenko, who made history as the first female Israeli swimmer to advance to an Olympic final, says she has plenty of fight left in her with multiple competitions ahead.
“It’s an incredibly exciting experience to be here at my first Olympic Games,” Gorbenko told a video press conference for Israeli media from Tokyo on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s fun to have the flag of Israel on me and represent my country. We have an incredible team and I’m proud to be part of it — and I’m waiting eagerly for the rest of the competitions.”
Gorbenko, 17, spoke to media just hours after both her eighth-place finish in the 100m backstroke final and her fifth-place finish in her heat of the semifinals of the 200-meter individual medley, which fell short of qualifying her for the finals. On Wednesday, Gorbenko will compete in the first heat of the women’s 200m breaststroke, an event she holds an Israeli record in, and is also expected to participate in the mixed-gender 4x100m medley relay on Thursday.
“It was my first finals appearance, and I’m happy I was close to my record despite the intense pressure,” said Gorbenko of the 100m backstroke final. “I gave it my all and tried to improve — I didn’t succeed, but I was still close to my own personal best.”
Gorbenko noted that the upcoming 200m breaststroke race is not her strongest event, “but I’ll still give it everything I have and try to improve.”
She said she was “a little disappointed” to not qualify in the 200m individual medley — which is considered her strongest event — especially “because it was so close. But we’re all here continuing to compete, trying to improve throughout the competition.”
Swimming coach Ehud Segal told reporters that the first three days of Israeli swimming at the Games have been remarkable.
“We saw an advance to the finals of the Olympic Games, which was an incredible experience for all of us,” said Segal. “We’re only halfway through the competition, so we don’t intend to sum things up or to string together some words about all the races,” he added. “But we’re trying every time — with the successes and the not-so-successes — to find a way to improve and to be better in the next stages.”
Gorbenko said her experience in the finals was “exciting, fun and extremely challenging — and I hope it’s not my last time.” She said she brings everything she has to every race: “My goal is always to advance as far as possible, and to break my own personal records on the biggest stage there is in swimming, and I hope we’ll succeed in doing it.”
The young swimmer said she was happy with her achievements so far, especially competing in an Olympic final. “At the end of the day it’s something that no female swimmer has done before, and it’s fun to be the first, and I hope there will be more in the future.”
Elsewhere in Israeli swimming on Tuesday, Meiron Cheruti failed to advance in the first heat of the men’s 100m freestyle, and Ron Polonsky failed to make the semifinal of the men’s 200m breaststroke. In the men’s 4x200m freestyle race, the Israeli team — made up of Denis Loktev, Daniel Namir, Tomer Frankel and Gal Cohen Groumi — did not advance to the finals.