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Politics reared its ugly head at the Olympic Games once more on Saturday after an Iranian swimmer refused to compete alongside Israeli Tom Be'eri.
Mohammad Alirezaei was due to race against Be'eri in the fourth heat of the 100 meter breaststroke, but pulled out, apparently under the orders of the chiefs of the Iranian delegation.
"This isn't the first time this has happened and it doesn't surprise me anymore," Olympic Committee of Israel General Secretary Efraim Zinger told The Jerusalem Post. "Politics takes precedence over sport with the Iranians and the Olympic spirit is as far from them as east is far from west.
"My heart goes out to the Iranian athletes. In the Athens Olympics one of their sportsmen, who was a gold medal favorite, had to pull out because he was drawn against an Israeli.
"There's no place for this kind of behavior in the Olympic movement and it's a shame it continues."
In a superb opening day of racing for Israel's swimmers, which was sadly marred, the delegation's three competitors set two Israeli records and one personal best.
Gal Nevo smashed the Israeli record in the 400 meters Individual Medley and improved his personal best by an astonishing six seconds on Saturday.
The 21-year-old, who trains year round at Arizona State University, clocked a time of 4.14:03 minutes in the heats, finishing in a surprising 11th place overall.
Nevo's new mark broke Miki Halika's nine-year-old record and is an excellent sign ahead of his main swim of the week, the 200 I.M.
Tom Be'eri also set a new Israeli record on Saturday, finishing the 100m breaststroke in 1.02:42m, improving Vadim Alexeev's 13-year-old record to end the competition in 42nd position.
Anya Gostomelsky also improved her personal best in the 100m butterfly, touching the wall in 59.50 seconds and finishing in 36th place overall.
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