On your marks, get set...Go Israel, go!

London Olympics set to kick off with Opening Ceremony and action-packed weekend.

July 26, 2012 22:10
4 minute read.
Olympic Park in Stratford

Olympic Park in Stratford 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Charles Platiau)

LONDON – After just about four years of waiting, the big day has finally arrived.

The London 2012 Olympics will officially get under way on Friday night with what is set to be a spectacular opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium.

Windsurfer Shahar Zubari will carry the Israeli flag and lead out the country’s delegation, which will not be fully represented at the ceremony, with several athletes choosing instead to get a good night’s sleep to ensure they are ready for their moment of truth.

As many as 10 Israelis could already be in action in the first full day of competition on Saturday, including several of the delegation’s bigger names.

The first Israeli to take part in the Games is set to be judoka Tommy Arshansky, who will be given a baptism by fire in his debut Olympics.

Arshansky was drawn on Thursday to face European bronze medalist Jeroen Mooren of the Netherlands in the second round of the under-60kg competition after receiving a firstround bye.

The 20-year-old Arshansky, who was sent to London as one of the delegation’s three up-and-coming athletes, beat Mooren last year, but lost to the Dutchman in their most recent meeting.

The draws for all the judo weight categories were held on Thursday.

Thirty-five-year-old Arik Ze’evi, competing in his fourth and final Olympics, opens against Germany’s Dimitri Peters in the under-100kg competition next Thursday and could face world No. 2 and his conqueror from the Beijing Games, Henk Grol, in the quarterfinals should he make the last eight.

“I’m going to London with the plan of enjoying it and making the most of my final Olympics,” Ze’evi said ahead of his departure from Israel on Thursday morning.

“My best might be enough for a medal. I’ve got profiles on each of my opponents on my phone and I will be ready for everyone.”

Israel’s other medal hopeful in the judo, Alice Schlesinger, received a firstround bye and will likely face nemesis Hilde Drexler of Austria in the second round of the women’s under-63kg competition on Tuesday.

“There is certainly pressure as I’m targeting a medal,” Schlesinger said. “But I’m trying to channel it in the right direction and I believe in my ability.”

Golan Pollack will like his chances against David Larose of France in the first round of the men’s under-66kg event on Sunday, while Soso Palelashvili was handed a first-round bye and faces Turkey’s Sezar Huysuz in the last 32 of the under-73kg competition on Monday.

The second Israeli in action on Saturday will be swimmer Gal Nevo, who will be hoping to become just the second of his countrymen to ever reach a final in an individual Olympic event when he takes part in the 400-meters individual medley heats.

The 25-year-old Kibbutz Hamadia native, who needs to be among the eight fastest swimmers to qualify for Saturday night’s final, is looking to follow in the footsteps of Eitan Urbach, who made the 100m backstroke final in the 2000 Sydney Games.

“I feel that I’m in the best shape of my life. Therefore, my target is to improve my national records which were set a while ago with the full-body suits,” Nevo said on Wednesday.

“I hope that will be enough to reach the final.”

Nevo just missed out on a place in the final of the 400m IM in Beijing, finishing in 11th place, but will be confident of achieving his lifelong dream and swimming alongside the likes of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in Saturday’s final.

The target for Amit Ivri (women’s 100m butterfly) and Imri Ganiel (100m breaststroke), also in action in the pool on Saturday, will be to set personal bests in the hope of making the evening semis.

Alex Shatilov, one of Israel’s best medal hopes, will begin his quest for a place on the podium on Saturday.

Shatilov and teammate Felix Aronovich take part in the artistic gymnastics qualifiers, looking to be among the 24 gymnasts to make the all-around final, and in Shatilov’s case, to also be one of the eight athletes to reach the floor final.

The floor final will take place on August 5 and Shatilov will be optimistic of winning a medal, assuming he qualifies, after scaling the podium in the event in recent World and European Championships.

Also Saturday, Badminton player Misha Zilberman faces Denmark’s Jan O. Jorgensen in the first of his two matches in the group stage, while Israel’s tennis stars could also be in action at Wimbledon.

First round matches will be played on Saturday and Sunday, with the order of play to only be announced the previous night.

Whenever she ends up playing, Shahar Pe’er faces an almost impossible first-round encounter against world No. 3 Maria Sharapova.

Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich play Spain’s Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers in the first round of the doubles event, with Beijing gold medalists Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka likely waiting in the second round.

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