Timna Nelson Levy (right) and coach Shany Hershko pose yesterday with the bronze medal she won at the European Judo Championships in Kazan, Russia..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Timna Nelson Levy won a surprise bronze medal for Israel in the first day of the European Judo Championships in Kazan, Russia, on Thursday, finishing in third place in the women’s under-57 kilogram competition.
Nelson Levy showed her potential by finishing in fifth place at the recent world under-21 championships, but she still arrived in Kazan with little expectations, mainly hoping to gain experience.
Her second round win over last year’s runner- up Hedvig Karakas of Hungary proved she can compete with the very best, and despite falling at the hands of Nora Gjakova of Kosovo in the quarterfinals, she bounced back with a win over Germany’s Viola Waechter in the repechage before beating Helene Receveaux of France with an ippon with 30 seconds remaining in the bout for the bronze.
“I have no words to describe how I’m feeling after this amazing day,” said Nelson Levy. “All the hard work and the long hours of training have led me to the most significant achievement of my career. I’m certain that many more achievements await me in the future and I’m committed to doing everything possible to meet my expectations.”
Israel women’s national team coach Shany Hershko was full of praise for Nelson Levy.
“I’m really proud of Timna who had an amazing day, including wins over world class athletes,” said Hershko. “It brings me great pride as a coach to know that there is a young generation of Israeli judokas coming through.”
Despite her success on Thursday, Nelson Levy is unlikely to participate at the Rio Olympics. Qualification for the judo events at the Olympic Games is determined according to world rankings and Nelson Levy entered the Europeans at No. 83 in the world. Only the top 14 in each weight category in the rankings as of May 30 will qualify for Rio.
Eight other Israelis were in action on Thursday, but apart from Nelson Levy, only Roni Schwartz made it as far as the quarterfinals in the under-52kg event. World championship bronze medalist Golan Pollack (under-66kg) and former European bronze medalists Tommy Arshanski (under- 60kg) and Gili Cohen (under-52kg) were all knocked out in the early rounds.
The Israeli delegation is a third of the way to equaling its medal haul from last year’s Europeans, with Sagi Muki, Yarden Gerbi and Ori Sasson scaling the podium in Baku last summer. Muki looks to claim his second straight gold medal in the under-73kg competition on Friday, while Gerbi aims to add a European title to the world crown she won in 2013.
“We certainly have expectations from the European Championships, but we are not in top shape as our main goal this year is the Olympics,” said Muki. “Last year I was not one of the favorites, but this time there are high expectations and a lot of pressure.”
Gerbi could face rival Alice Schlesinger as early as the quarterfinals on Friday.
Schlesinger began representing Great Britain at the end of 2014 following an ugly dispute with the Israel Judo Association.