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Swimming: Kopelev Olympics-bound
By ALLON SINAI
06/03/2012
Nine days after becoming 1st Israeli swimmer to claim gold at European Championships, Jonatan Kopelev booked place at London Olympics.
 
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 Olympics.

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.

“I just needed this to complete the crazy year I’ve had. I have realized my dream,” Kopelev said.

“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.
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