Going for gold: High hopes for Israel's Paralympic team in Beijing

Just a few weeks after the Team Israel began returning home after a disappointing showing at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, another team of Olympians have made their way to China with medals on their minds.

By BEN SOLOMON
September 5, 2008 05:10
2 minute read.
Going for gold: High hopes for Israel's Paralympic team in Beijing

paralympic games 224. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Just a few weeks after the Team Israel began returning home after a disappointing showing at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, another team of Olympians have made their way to China with medals on their minds. Starting September 6 with the opening ceremonies, Israel's 34-member Paralympic team will compete for two weeks in the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing. Since the first summer Paralympics were held in Rome in 1960, Israel has had great success at the Games and this year the team is hoping to add to the long list of Paralympic accomplishments. Over 48 years Israel has gathered almost 300 medals: 87 golds, 96 silvers, and 91 bronzes. Nearly all of the medal winners from the 2004 Athens Paralympics will be returning to competition in Beijing aiming to reclaim their titles. Swimmer Keren Leibowitz, who in 2004 won a gold medal in the 100m backstroke, two silver medals in the 100m and 50m freestyle events and a bronze in the 200m individual medley, will be back in action and looking for new wins. Leibowitz, who has 90 percent leg paralysis resulting from a training accident while serving in the Israel Defense Forces, explained in an interview with Israel magazine on the web, "swimming has become my life, and the Paralympics has been the focus for my efforts in recent years." Another proven competitor returning to the pool will be 21-year-old Inbal Pezaro. At the young age of 17, she took the silver medal in the 100m breaststroke and bronze in the 200m freestyle competition in Athens. Pezaro, who was born with a spinal disorder inhibiting the use of her legs, will look to add to her impressive record. Other returning medalists include Dror Cohen, Aaron Efrati and Benni Vexle who as a three man sailing team in the Sonar event, took gold in the 2004 games as well as shooting champion Doron Shaziri. Shaziri, who lost a leg in the Lebanon war, won two bronze metals in 2004 in the men's free rifle 3x40 and the mixed free rifle prone competitions. In wheelchair tennis, Israel will return its three competitors fighting for gold. In men's wheelchair tennis Quads Singles division, Shraga Weinberg and Boaz Kremer will return for their third Paralympic games. The International Tennis Federation ranks Weinberg seventh and Kremer 17th, however their coach, Kovi Wieener, believes they should be higher. "Most wuads players aren't working and can go to around 20 tournaments a year" Wieener told The Jerusalem Post. "Boaz and Shraga work, and can only go to around nine." Quad wheelchair tennis, a subdivision of wheelchair tennis where both the legs and upper body are disabled, requires hard work. The two men train three times a week for three hours. "That's a lot for them, because they are disabled it is hard to do much more" said Wiener. Proving his legitimacy, this year, Weinberg beat both the first and second ranked Quad singles players in tournament play. Wiener believes the tennis duo can make a name for themselves in Beijing. "I have been with [Weinberg and Kremer] since 2004 in Athens." Wieener noted, "I know their skill level very well and believe they could get a silver and bronze."

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