(photo credit: Courtesy)
Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or. It's a mouthful, but remember the name. Over the last six days the 18-year-old has given Israeli swimming a long overdue boost.
Silver and bronze medals at the European Youth Swimming Championships in Antwerp have raised the hope that the teenager can take Israeli swimming to places it has only dreamed of reaching in the past.
A simple comparison between Bar-Or and other Israeli swimmers his age illustrates how far ahead he is of his Israel teammates. Not only was Bar-Or the only Israeli medal winner in Belgium, but he was also the only swimmer of the team to even reach the final of his event.
"My goal is to always finish one place higher," the teenager said on his return to Israel on Monday. "I was under a lot of pressure, but this is a professional sport and you get used to these kinds of things.
"I was very emotional when I stood on the podium, but seeing the flag fly high gives you the fuel to continue."
Bar-Or, who clinched the bronze medal in the 400 meters freestyle on Friday, won the silver medal in the 200m freestyle on Sunday in a time of 1 minute and 50.36 seconds.
His time was the second fastest ever in Israeli swimming history and he now only trails Israeli record holder Shay Livnat (1:49.62 min).
"I have to swim as fast as possible and I'm not concerned with what Livnat does. It depends entirely on me," Bar-Or said.
"Shay is an opponent like any other swimmer in the world. I believe in myself and I believe I'll book my place in Beijing.
"And should I get to Beijing I won't be going for a holiday, I'll be aiming to reach the final."
Bar-Or will need to knock almost an entire second off his personal best in his favorite event in the coming months to book his place at the Olympic Games, with 1:49.47 min the criteria time for the 200m free in Beijing.
"To cut a second off your time is a lot, but that's what I'm training so hard for," he said. "I have six months to accomplish the feat and I believe I will do it."
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