Israeli Olympic delegation preparing to wow in Rio

Following Friday’s Opening Ceremony in Rio, four blue-and-white athletes begin competition.

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August 5, 2016 06:41
3 minute read.
Israel's delegation at 2012 London Olympics

Israel'sdelegation at 2012 London Olympics. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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A mere 10 hours after the Opening Ceremony, Rio 2016 will swing into full action on Saturday, with four Israelis to already enter the fray.

Rhythmic gymnast Neta Rivkin, participating in her third Olympics at the tender age of 25, will be Israel’s flag bearer and lead out the delegation in Friday’s ceremony at the Maracana Stadium.

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Israel has sent 47 athletes to the 2016 Games, four more than the previous record set in Beijing eight years ago. Israel will also be represented in 17 different events, another record.

Many of Israel’s representatives will not be attending the ceremony, either because they aren’t in Rio yet as their events start later in the Games or because the long festive night would leave them tired ahead of their competitions.

One of those who will skip the ceremony is gymnast Alex Shatilov.

The two-time medalist at the World Championships and six-time medalist at the European Championships is targeting a first Olympic medal in Rio.

The 29-year-old will compete in the men’s qualification at the Rio Olympic Arena on Saturday, aiming to reach the finals in the floor and parallel bars. After competing in all six disciplines in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, ending the all-around final in an impressive 12th place four years ago, Shatilov decided to focus on the floor and the parallel bars in Rio. He finished the floor final in Beijing in eighth place before coming sixth in London.

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Shatilov is eyeing an improvement of at least three more places in Brazil. He will first have to advance to the final on Saturday, with the top eight in each apparatus progressing.

“I’m in excellent shape and I have one goal in Rio, to win my first Olympic medal,” said Shatilov. “I won’t be satisfied with just reaching a final and neither will you. I will settle for nothing less than a medal.”

The men’s floor final will take place on August 14, with the bars final to be held two days later.

“It will be much easier for me in Rio as I won’t be competing in the four other disciplines. I’ll be able to focus entirely on the floor and bars,” added Shatilov. “I want to enjoy myself in Rio and I’m not feeling any special excitement or pressure. I have plenty of Olympic experience. I need to maintain my focus and we’ll see what happens.”

The swimming events in Rio will also get under way on Saturday, with two Israelis to enter the pool. Gal Nevo, who will be taking part in his third straight Olympics, which will likely also be his last, competes in the 400-meter individual medley heats, with the final to already take place later in the day.

After finishing in 11th and 13th in the 400m and 200m IM in Beijing 2008, he improved to 10th in both events in London 2012. A place in either final is likely beyond him in Rio and he will be content with his performance regardless of his final position should he set personal bests.

Amit Ivry participates in the women’s 100m butterfly heats on Saturday, with the semifinals to held in the evening session. Ivry has been Israel’s leading female swimmer for much of the past decade, reaching the semifinals in the 200m IM at London 2012. She ended the event in 13th place, the best ever finish for an Israeli female swimmer at the Olympics.

Also Saturday, the judo events get under way. Israel has sent a record seven judokas to Rio, with Shira Rishony the first to enter the action in the under-48 kilogram category competition on Saturday.

Expectations from Rishony are not very high as she only qualified for Rio courtesy of one of two additional berths handed to the European Judo Union in her weight category. She missed out on an automatic place as one of the top 14 athletes in the rankings and has yet to win a medal at a major competition.

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