Jonatan Kopelev made Israeli swimming history on Thursday, claiming a gold medal
in the 50-meter backstroke final at the European Championships in Debrecen,
Israel had previously won seven medals at the long course
Europeans, with Eitan Urbach being the first to do so in 1997 and Yakov
Toumarkin becoming the latest when he finished third in the 100m back on
However, no Israeli swimmer had ever scaled the top of the
podium in the continental championships until Kopelev did so on
The 20-year-old touched the wall after 24.73 seconds, edging
Italy’s Mirco Di Tora by 22 hundredths of a second.
There was further
cause for celebration for the Israeli delegation after Guy Barnea ended the race
in third place in a time of 25.14s, sharing the bronze medal with Dorian Gandin
of France and Richard Bohus of Hungary.
“I can’t put into words how
excited I am,” said Kopelev. “We witnessed history.
Not only did Israel
win a gold medal at the Europeans for the first time, but we also had two of our
swimmers on the podium. I never believed I would get to hear Hatikva at the
championships. I had goose bumps all over my body.”
Despite his triumph
on Thursday, Kopelev seems set to miss out on the London Olympics as the 50m
back is not an Olympic event.
Kopelev and Barnea failed to set the
Olympic criteria in the 100m back earlier this week, and as things currently
stand, they will be watching the London Games on TV.
One Israeli swimmer
who has no such worries is Amit Ivri, who officially booked her place in London
on Thursday, clocking a time of 58.64s in the 100m butterfly heats, sixth
hundredths of a second quicker than the Olympic Qualifying Time required by the
Olympic Committee of Israel to be part of the delegation for the 2012
Ivri will be Israel’s only female swimmer in London and will join
Gal Nevo, Toumarkin and Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or in the Olympic pool.
who pulled out of the 200m Individual Medley final to focus on her main event,
will take part in the 100m fly final on Friday evening after recording 59.01s in
Thursday’s semis to advance from sixth place overall.
said the 22-year-old Ivri. “My dream has come true and now I can focus on my
real target which is to represent Israel with honor in the Olympic Games.”