(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli judoka Yarden Gerbi carries the expectations of an entire nation on her shoulders when she competes in the women’s under- 63 kilogram event in Rio on Tuesday.
The pressure on Gerbi has been building ever since she became the first Israeli judoka to be crowned world champion in 2013. It will reach its climax on Tuesday as she looks to join fellow judoka Yael Arad as the only Israeli women to win an Olympic medal.
Gerbi is considered to be one of the delegation’s best medal hopes in Rio, but has experienced several near misses in recent major events.
After claiming a gold medal at the 2013 Worlds and a silver in the event the following year, she ended last year’s edition, as well as this year’s European Championships, in fifth place, losing in the bouts for the bronze medal.
She is nevertheless ranked at No. 5 in the world in her weight category, meaning she is seeded.
Gerbi received a bye into the second round where she will face the winner of the first round contest between Cuba’s Maricet Espinosa, who will be the favorite, and Phupu Lhamu Khatri of Nepal, for a place in the quarterfinals.
The Israeli lost to Espinosa in May in the battle for the bronze medal at the Grand Slam event in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The 27-year-old Gerbi will be participating in her first Olympics after losing out to Alice Schlesinger in the battle for Israel’s lone berth in the under-63kg event in London 2012.
Schlesinger began representing Great Britain at the end of 2014 following an ugly dispute with the Israel Judo Association and faces Jiyun Bak of South Korea in the first round on Tuesday.
Gerbi and Schlesinger can’t meet each other in Rio before the medal rounds.
Elsewhere Tuesday, Dudi Sela, ranked at No. 65 in the world, aims to add another upset to the already long list at the tennis tournament in Rio. Sela, who advanced to the second round of the men’s singles with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Damir Dzumhur (76) of Bosnia, faces world No. 13 David Goffin of Belgium for a place in the last 16.
Sela, who is the first Israeli man to participate in the singles event at the Olympics since Gilad Bloom in Barcelona 1992, will be playing Goffin for the first time.
Also Tuesday, teenage swimmer Ziv Kalontarov makes his Olympic debut when he participates in the men’s 100- meter freestyle. The 19-yearold was targeting a place in Tokyo 2020 before being crowned as European youth champion in Baku last year, setting a new senior national record of 22.16 seconds in the 50-meter freestyle final to book his place in Rio.
The RS:X windsurfing events also continue on Tuesday, with Shahar Zubari and Maayan Davidovich to take part in three more races.
The men and the women will each contest 12 races before the top 10 compete in the medal race on August 14 to determine final places.
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