ISRAELI SWIMMERS Gilad Kalishov (left) and Avital Naveh (right) pose with the medals that they won over the weekend at the 2019 Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi.
(photo credit: SPECIAL OLYMPICS ISRAEL)
On Saturday, 39-year-old Avital Naveh won a gold medal in the women’s 100-meter individual medley. It was the second medal for Naveh following her bronze in the women’s 100-meter backstroke on Friday.
“I felt great in the competition,” said Naveh after her gold-medal performance. “Throughout the race, I thought there was no one with me.”
Blue-and-white swimmer Gilad Kalishov took the bronze medal in the men’s 50-meter freestyle competition, and finished just off the podium in fourth place in the 50-meter breaststroke.
Kalishov, 28, added to his two gold medals and a silver from the 2011 World Championships in Athens.
Israel’s Dekel Bar Nir won a bronze medal in judo, immediately calling out to iconic Israeli judoka Arik Ze’evi, “Arik Ze’evi, I won a bronze.”
Ze’evi quickly sent an emotional message in response: “Congratulations, Dekel! I am very proud of you for determination and perseverance.”
“I still do not digest that I have won bronze,” added Bar Nir. “I feel proud of the team, of Israel, my parents and my coach.”
Also, in Unified Bowling (composed of players with and without disabilities) Israeli teams took one silver and one bronze.
The team of Hana Duanis, Lin Kornhauser, Israel Nachzatz and Din Ohayon won the silver, while Rhona Gill, Pele Abudy, Tal Sharabi and Amnon Damari teamed up to capture bronze.
On Sunday, Israel’s Daniel Ben Asa took a swimming bronze medal in the 200-meter freestyle, breaking a personal record when he finished the race in 2:37:05 minutes.
Ben Asa, 31, lives in Tel Aviv and is representing Israel for the second time in the Special Olympics. He began his athletic career as a basketball player before turning to swimming. In the 2011 Games in Athens he won a gold medal with the basketball team.
“I am excited about the win,” said Ben Asa. “I brought pride to our country and I broke a personal record and these two things together enhance the joy and excitement of winning.”
Also on Sunday, Abudy took home a silver medal in the Singles bowling competition with a score of 231.
After a close match against rival from Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Bermuda, 25-year-old Abudy emerged in second place
“It’s a lot of fun to bring a medal to Israel and win for the first time at the Olympics,” she said after the win. “I’m excited and happy about the achievement.”
Sharon Blange Levi, CEO of Special Olympics Israel, who is accompanying the delegation in Abu Dhabi, was elated with the results of the blue-and-white athletes.
“My heart bursts with pride,” she exclaimed. “Our athletes demonstrated exceptional abilities, exciting us with every win. We are confident that we will return with a lot of pride to the country. The goal we are already setting is to reach the Berlin Olympics in 2023 with a delegation of 120 Israeli athletes.
“I would like to thank the Welfare Ministry for supporting us and true partners in the way we have done since the opening of Special Olympics again.”
The Israeli delegation of 25 athletes with cognitive disabilities – 20 men and five women – is part of 7,500 athletes from 192 countries around the world at the event in Dubai.
In the coming days, the team’s athletes will compete in other competitions in swimming, judo, bowling and basketball.
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