Nine days after becoming the first Israeli swimmer to claim a gold medal at the
European Championships, Jonatan Kopelev booked his place at the London Olympics
on Saturday, clocking a time of 54.38 seconds in the 100-meter backstroke final
in a competition in Slovenia.
Despite making history by scaling the top
of the podium in the Europeans in Debrecen, Hungary, the 20-year-old seemed set
to miss out on representing Israel at the London Games, as the 50m backstroke at
which he won is not an Olympic event.
Both he and Guy Barnea were given
one last chance to set the Olympic Qualifying Time of 54.40s on Saturday, and
Kopelev did so by two hundredths of a second to reach his first
Barnea could only clock a time of 55.20s and will miss out on
the Olympics after participating in the Beijing Games four years ago.
just needed this to complete the crazy year I’ve had. I have realized my dream,”
“In one week I won an historic gold medal at the European
Championships and qualified for the Olympics. I will now start a
month-and-a-half of excruciating work to be ready for London. I’m certain I’ll
do well there as well.”
Including Kopelev, Israel is set to send six
swimmers to London.
Gal Nevo, Yakov Toumarkin, Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or and
Amit Ivri have all effectively secured their places, while Imri Ganiel seems all
but certain to go to London with a special exemption from the Olympic Committee
of Israel as one of the delegation’s up-and-coming athletes.