WHILE IT wasn’t a shock for Yarden Gerbi to win an Olympic medal, the valiant manner in which she rallied back from a tough quarterfinal loss for bronze on Tuesday night is a lesson in determination and perserverence that any athlete can learn from..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
After the bus incident with the Lebanese delegation at the opening ceremony and the refusal of Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby to shake hands with Ori Sasson, the Israel delegation to the Rio Olympics could find itself involved in more controversy on Wednesday.
Israeli taekwondo fighter Ron Atias faces Brazilian Venilton Teixeira in the first round of the under-58 kilogram competition, and should he register an upset, he could come up against a Libyan opponent in the quarterfinals and the Iranian world No. 1 in the semis. That is assuming they decide to actually face him, which at least in the case of the Iranian seems very unlikely.
The 21-year-old Atias’s first goal will be to overcome the bronze medalist from last year’s World Championships and crowd favorite Teixeira. Israel’s silver medalist at this year’s European Championships will be a firm underdog, but awaiting him in the quarterfinals could be Libya’s Yousef Shriha.
Should Atias register two wins and make it into the semis, Iranian world champion Farzan Ashourzadeh would likely be his opponent.
“I’m very excited. This is the first time that an Israeli male taekwondo fighter is taking part in the Olympics,” said Atias. “I feel ready and I’m completely focused on my own performance.
I’m in good shape and I hope that shows in the competition.”
Israel will also be represented in the women’s wrestling at the Olympics for the first time on Wednesday.
Ilana Kratysh, a four-time silver medalist at the European Championships, takes part in the under-69 kilogram category.
“I feel 100 percent ready,” said Kratysh. “I have done everything possible to make sure I’m in top form and I hope it shows.”
After 112 years, golf is back at the Olympics, and Israel will be represented by 24-year-old Laetitia Beck in the women’s event, which gets under way on Wednesday.
Israel’s first and only LPGA player qualified by reaching 41st place in the Olympic rankings, with the top 59 advancing. She has made the cut in only five of 18 tournaments this year, but showed her potential by finishing the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic in Alabama in May in 15th place.
Meanwhile, Israel’s two medalists at the Rio Games, judokas Yarden Gerbi and Ori Sasson, returned home to a hero’s welcome late Monday night.
Approximately 1,000 people waited for them at Ben Gurion Airport, and Gerbi and Sasson had to be escorted out through a side exit due to the congestion in the welcome hall.
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