Arik Ze’evi capped a memorable weekend for Israeli judo by being crowned
European champion for the fourth time in his career on Saturday, a day after
Yarden Gerbi, Alice Schlesinger and Soso Palelashvili all won medals in the
championships in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
The 35-year-old Ze’evi almost
retired four years ago after a disappointing showing in the Beijing Olympics,
but he will now be entering the London Games brimming with confidence fresh off
winning his fourth career gold in the Europeans, a first since 2004, when he
also took a bronze medal at the Athens Olympics.
“I can’t believe I have
won the gold for a fourth time,” said Ze’evi, who claimed his ninth total medal
in the continental championships on Saturday, also taking gold in 2001, 2003 and
2004, a silver in 2005 and bronze in 1999, 2007, 2008 and 2010.
were my last European Championships and I can’t believe that they ended this
way. I always hoped that this would happen, but never dared to dream about it
“This medal doesn’t give me any advantage ahead of the
Olympics, but it does give me some confidence and I hope that I continue to
succeed in London.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Ze’evi to
congratulate him. “You have given us a lot of honor and hope,” said
“I wish you that after the tears of disappointment in Beijing
you will cry tears of joy in London.”
Ze’evi’s victory over
Georgia’s Levan Zhorzholiani in the final of the under-100kg competition came a
day after Gerbi, Schlesinger and Palelashvili all won medals of their own in the
Gerbi recorded the greatest accomplishment of her career by
claiming the silver medal in the women’s under-63kg competition, making up
slightly for the disappointment of losing out to Schlesinger in the battle to
represent Israel in the London Olympics.
Each country can only send one
judoka to London in each weight category and Schlesinger had secured her berth
even before taking the bronze in the under-63kg event on Friday.
and Schlesinger very nearly met in an all-Israeli final, but France’s Gevrise
Emane spoiled the party, beating Schlesinger in the semis and Gerbi in the final
to clinch her fourth European title.
“I didn’t really target these
championships because I’m in the middle of my preparations for the Olympics, but
I still won a medal,” said Schlesinger, who took her third career bronze in the
Europeans by defeating Urska Zolnir after also finishing third in 2008 and
Palelashvili looks set to join Ze’evi and Schlesinger in the
Olympics after winning his first major medal on Friday, finishing third in the
men’s under-73kg event.
The 25-year-old stunned two-time defending
European champion Joao Pina of Portugal in the second round and beat Giovanni Di
Cristo in the repechage to clinch a bronze.
As a result, Palelashvili
climbed to No. 21 in the world rankings, meeting the International Olympic
Committee’s criteria for the London Games.
He is still just short of the
Olympic Committee of Israel’s requirements of being placed in the top-20, but
nevertheless is expected to be part of the blue-and-white’s delegation.