Tokyo 2020

With new national record, swimmer Gorbenko makes history to reach Olympic final

Teen becomes 3rd Israeli, and first Israeli woman, to earn a chance to chase a swimming medal in 100m backstroke; also qualifies for semifinals in 200m individual medley

Israel's Anastasia Gorbenko competes during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on July 26, 2021 (Amit Shisel/Israel Olympic Committee)
Israel's Anastasia Gorbenko competes during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on July 26, 2021 (Amit Shisel/Israel Olympic Committee)

Israeli swimmer Anastasia Gorbenko made history and set a national record in the 100-meter backstroke Monday, on her way to clinching a chance to compete for an Olympic medal in the event. She also qualified for the semifinals in the 200-meter individual medley — her strongest event.

Gorbenko, 17, raced in with a time of 59.30 seconds, enough to clinch fourth place in her heat, and eighth place among all 16 swimmers competing in the event, good enough to put her in Tuesday’s final in an event that isn’t even her strongest.

Only two Israeli swimmers before her have ever reached an Olympic final: Eitan Orbach in Sydney 2000 (who finished in 8th place) and Yaakov Toumarkin in London 2012 (7th place). Gorbenko is the first woman to reach that stage.

She swam behind American Regan Smith, who set a new Olympic record with a time of 57.86 seconds.

In May, Gorbenko became the first Israeli woman to break the 1-minute mark, setting a new record of 59.96 at the European Championships in Budapest by breaking her own record set two years earlier of 1:00.58.

At that same competition, she won gold in the 200-meter individual medley, where she is considered a potential medalist in the Tokyo Games.

In her individual medley heat Monday, Gorbenko seemed to be conserving her energy toward the end, qualifying for the semis from the seventh place with a time of 2:10.21.

The semifinal will be held on Tuesday around 6 a.m. Israel time, an hour after her 4:50 a.m. backstroke final.

FILE — Israel’s Anastasia Gorbenko celebrates with her gold medal after winning the women’s 200 meters individual medley finals at the European Aquatics Championships in Duna Arena in Budapest, Hungary, May 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Hebrew media reported that Gorbenko’s team had considered pulling out of the final to allow her to focus on the 200-meter individual medley, but eventually decided she will compete.

Gorbenko owns individual records in eight long course events and seven short course events, according to the website

Gorbenko had also been slated to compete in the 100-meter breaststroke, but pulled out over the weekend on the advice of her coaches.

An underwater view shows Italy’s Margherita Panziera (top) and Israel’s Anastasya Gorbenko in a semi-final of the women’s 100m breaststroke swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on July 26, 2021. (François-Xavier MARIT / AFP)

Meanwhile, Andi Murez narrowly missed out on the semifinal in the women’s 200-meter freestyle event, placing 19th (only 16 qualify) with a time of 1:58.97.

Elsewhere Monday morning, Israeli brothers Shachar and Ran Sagiv finished 20th and 35th in the men’s triathlon.

Mountain biker Shlomi Haimy finished 33rd in the men’s event.

Israeli judoka Timna Nelson-Levy advanced to the quarterfinals in the 57kg weight class after defeating Serb Marica Perisic, but then lost to Japan’s Tsukasa Yoshida and was relegated to the repechage, where she lost to Slovenia’s Kaja Kajzer and was knocked out of the tournament.

Israel’s Timna Nelson Levy (white) and Slovenia’s Kaja Kajzer compete in the judo women’s -57kg repechage bout during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on July 26, 2021. (Jack GUEZ / AFP)

In the men’s 73kg weight class, Israel’s Tohar Butbul also reached the quarterfinal after an ippon over Moldova’s Victor Sterpu, but then lost to Changrim An of South Korea in the quarterfinal and again to Canada’s Arthur Margelidon in the repechage, ending his medal hopes.

Butbul automatically won his first two rounds when an Algerian rival and a Sudanese rival both quit to avoid facing the Israeli.

On the badminton court, Misha Zilberman fell 1-2 to Mark Caljouw of the Netherlands, after winning his first match.

Israel’s Misha Zilberman plays against Mark Caljouw from the Netherlands during their men’s singles group play stage badminton match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, July 26, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Zilberman’s qualification depends on the outcome of his remaining match.

Meanwhile, Israelis continued to compete in windsurfing, with Yoav Cohen and Katy Spychakov each remaining fifth in their respective men’s and women’s RS:X event after six of 12 races.

Cohen finished seventh, seventh and eighth in races 4, 5 and 6 which took place Monday, which was enough to preserve the same overall spot in which he started the day. Spychakov similarly held on to the fifth overall spot after finishing seventh, tenth and third.

After 12 races, the top ten finishers will compete in a single medal race.

In the women’s Laser Radial race 3 and 4, Shai Kakon finished 38th and 18th and went down two spots overall, from 29th to 31th. There are 10 races in that event before the medal race.

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