(photo credit: EJU)
In sports, as in life, there is an eternal cycle intertwining the old and the
Every career has to end at some stage, but while one athlete
declines, another blossoms, as was clearly evident on Thursday.
Ze’evi cemented his place as one of Israel’s all-time greats long ago, but
sadly, Thursday’s defeat after just 43 seconds of his first round match against
Dimitri Peters marked the end of the road for the judo legend.
35-year-old Ze’evi was aiming to become the oldest ever winner of an Olympic
judo medal, but he never came close, suffering a humbling exit.
only natural for Ze’evi to retire after his early defeat in the Beijing Games
four years ago.
He considered it, but chose to fight on.
four years may not have been the best of Ze’evi’s career, but they were surely
the most courageous.
He overcame injury and inconsistency to give himself
one more chance at Olympic glory, and it all seemed to be going to plan
beautifully when he pocketed his fourth European Championship gold medal, the
first in eight years, earlier this year.
However, a remarkable career
ended in pathetic fashion on Thursday, with Ze’evi being forced to throw in the
white towel after being pinned to the mat by Peters.
Ze’evi’s career will
still be deservedly celebrated for many years to come, but the void he leaves
behind will be filled.
Yakov Toumarkin proved he could take Ze’evi’s
place and realize the sporting dreams of Israeli fans after becoming just the
second Israeli to contest an individual swimming final at the Olympics on
The first to do so was Eitan Urbach some 12 years
Reaching a final may not sound all that impressive, but considering
swimming is one of the Olympic Games’ two showcase sports, together with
athletics, and is contested by virtually every country, finishing among the top
eight is simply monumental by Israeli standards.
But the best part of it
all is that Toumarkin is just 20 years old.
A mere year ago, he was the
best kept secret in Israeli sports.
His undoubted talent was clear for
all to see when he won two medals in both the Youth Olympics and European Junior
Championships in 2010.
But being a swimmer in a country dominated by
soccer and basketball meant Toumarkin’s achievements were easily
Once every four years the Olympic athletes get the chance
to grab the public’s attention and Toumarkin made the most of his opportunity in
Ze’evi became a household name thanks to the bronze medal he won
at the 2004 Athens Games.
Toumarkin took a significant first step in that
direction over the past couple of days.
The future seems blindly bright
Ze’evi may be gone, but the cycle continues.