Plenty of hardware for Israelis in Minsk

Ashram, Richter lead way as blue-and-white athletes grab three golds, three silvers at European Games.

RHYTHMIC GYMNAST Linoy Ashram captured a gold medal for Israel yesterday at the European Games. Ashram has four overall medals so far in Minsk (photo credit: OLYMPIC COMMITTEE OF ISRAEL)
RHYTHMIC GYMNAST Linoy Ashram captured a gold medal for Israel yesterday at the European Games. Ashram has four overall medals so far in Minsk
Linoy Ashram has been the hit of the European Games for Israel in Minsk so far. The rhythmic gymnast collected four medals over two days of the competition in the Belarus capital, capturing two gold and a pair of silver medals in fine fashion for the blue-and-white.
In addition to Ashram, Sergey Richter earned a gold medal on Monday in air rifle shooting and Li Kochman won a silver in judo bringing Israel’s medal total to six.
After winning a silver medal in the all-around on Saturday, Ashram won gold in ball and clubs while collecting a silver in ribbon on Sunday. The 20-year old began the day finishing sixth in hoop, but used her inner strength and motivation to take home two straight gold medals, first in ball and then in hoop and finished her day with a silver in ribbon.
“I didn’t begin the day well,” noted a jubilant Ashram. “But thanks to the help of my coaches I made a restart and I began again from the beginning. I’m happy that I was able to get back to myself and performed by routines well to bring home the medals. This competition will continue to give me experience and I’m happy that I was able to pass this test as best as possible.”
There had been questions concerning Ashram and how she would fare in Belarus as she had recently been injured and missed out on the European Championships in Baku back in May. However, after her sparkling performance this past weekend all of those concerns have been resoundingly answered.
“I’m happy that I was able to show everybody what I’m capable of after missing out on the European Championships because of my injury,” she said. “I gave it my all and I’ve been working very hard from morning to evening together with my coaches Ayelet Zussman and Lena Kopolenko six times a week. I’m so proud that I was able to get the results that I wanted and was able to stand on the podium twice as the Israeli Flag was hoisted to the sky and Hatikvah was played.”
With the World Championships approaching and the best of the best from around the globe to compete against Ashram, along with her continental foes, some question whether she be able to top the performances that she gave in Minsk.
“I’m not even thinking about it,” said Ashram. “I’ll give my best and do my best routines. My first goal will be to reach the criteria that will allow me to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and I’m not even pondering anything else.”
Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev praised Ashram’s exploits.
“What a pleasure to see our Linoy on the podium at the European Games in Minsk and become one of the most decorated gymnasts in the competition with two gold medals and two silver medals.”
In other European Games action, 30-year-old Richter won the gold medal in 10-meter air rifle shooting, which also helped him meet the criteria for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Richter will become a three-time blue-and-white Olympian after representing Israel in the 2012 London Games as well as the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
In judo, Kochman won silver in the -90kg category, falling to Mikail Ozerler of Turkey in the final, while Tohar Butbul just missed out on a medal as he finished fourth in the -73kg class.
The acrobatic gymnast team of Tzalil Hurvitz, Or Armony and Yarin Ovadia finished in fourth place as well in their all-around competition as Israeli athletes continued their strong performance at the games.
In the athletics arena, rising star Diana Vaisman set a new Israeli mark in the 100 meters, running 11:35 seconds, 0.4 seconds better than the former record in Israel.
Also, Yakov Toumarkin qualified for the swimming World Championships in South Korea in the 200-meter backstroke by not only setting his own personal best, but also swimming a time good enough for a silver medal in Rome. Toumarkin also won the silver in the 100 meters, but his time wasn’t good enough to meet the World Championship criteria in that category. 
Last week, Neve Daniel native Yuval Freilich won Israel’s first ever gold medal in fending when he defeated Italian Andrea Santarelli in epee at the European Championships in Dusseldorf, Germany.