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Rio 2016 Will Host Largest Delegation of Israeli Olympic Athletes

July 17, 2016

Beijing Olympics, Israel, parade of nations

Israel entered 43 athletes in 12 sports for the Summer Olympic Games of Beijing 2008. (Source: YouTube capture)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  (Hebrews 12:1)

In Israel, would-be Olympians and veterans of the games have been training to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August, with  its largest delegation ever — 48 athletes qualifying in 16 sports, including for the first time in triathlon, mountain biking, and golf.

On June 19, Israel’s five-member rhythmic gymnastics team won their first gold ever at the European Championships, preparing the way for a strong performance in this year’s Olympics.  On the team are Yuval Filo, Alona Koshevatskiy, Ekaterina Levina, Karina Lykhvar and Ida Marin.  (Times of Israel)

In 1992, Israel won its first Olympic medal, a silver awarded to judo master Yael Arad.  The last Israeli Olympian to bring home an Olympic medal was windsurfer Shahar Zubari, who won bronze in the 2008 games in Beijing and will be competing once again in the Rio games.  

In total, Israel has scored 1 gold, 5 bronze, and 1 silver Olympic medals.  The gold went to windsurfer, Gal Fridman, who competed in Athens in 2004.   (Times of Israel)

Israel formed its National Olympic Committee in 1933 during the British Mandate and has participated 16 times at the Olympics since 1952, but not all the Games.

Israel boycotted the 1936 Games in Germany as a protest to the Nazi Party’s anti-Jewish policies.  Then, 36 years later, on September 5, 1972 when Israel’s Olympic team attended the Games in Munich, Germany, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) terror group called Black September murdered 11 Israeli athletes. 

1972 Israel Olympic Men's Team terror victims

Although 18 escaped, two Olympians were shot and nine taken hostage in the dorms of the Olympic village. The nine were later killed during a failed rescue effort by German police. (Source: Flickr under CC license BY-NC-ND 2.0)

According to Jewish Virtual Library, “In July 2012, German magazine Der Spiegel reported that Germany had in fact been warned about the possibility of a Palestinian terrorist attack at the Games but took no actions to secure the Olympic Village.”

This past Wednesday in Tel Aviv, Israel’s Olympic community — athletes and officials — held a memorial service for the 11 fallen Israelis, nine of whom were taken hostage by the eight PLO terrorists before a flawed German rescue attempt spiraled into a massacre, since the Germans prepared to take out only five terrorists.

Shahar Tzuberi, bronze olympic medal, Beijijng olympics

Shahar Zubari won bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. Zubari is the nephew of wrestler Gad Tsobari, one of the Israeli Olympians who escaped during the 1972 Munich massacre. (Source: Wikicommons license: CC BY 2.5)

Zubari and Olympian gymnast Neta Rivkin, 25, laid a wreath together at the Tel Aviv memorial monument to the murdered athletes.

Rivkin will participate in Rio, marking her third Olympic Games; she will also carry Israel’s flag in Rio’s opening ceremony.  (Tablet Mag)

Rivkin did not compete at the European Championships in order to allow herself a greater period of recovery from an ankle injury.  (Israel HaYom)

This past Tuesday, Israel’s Olympic delegation gathered at Kfar Maccabiah for a celebratory dinner as they launched the final stage of preparations for the Games.  After the Munich memorial ceremony on Wednesday, the athletes met with President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem.

Israel Olympics, golf, Laetitia Beck,

Laetitia Beck, granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, is the only pro golf athlete representing Israel in the RIo 2016 Games this August. (Source: Wikipedia, photo by Wojciech Migda)

Participating athletes include weightlifter Igor Olshanetskyi, who qualified via wildcard after other competing countries were disqualified because of doping.

Golfer Laetitia Beck, the 24-year-old granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, will also participate, telling the Ladies Professional Golf Association in early July, “I want people to know where I’m from, my background and where my family came from because of the struggle they had to go through.”

“Every week when I play and I see the Israeli flag, it brings me a lot of pride, and I think it’s because of what my grandparents had to go through.  Not just them but everybody during World War II and the Holocaust.  That brings me anger, but what I’m trying to do is bring the anger and do something meaningful,” Beck said.

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