(photo credit: AP)
When Israeli Olympic pole vaulter Alex Averbukh stood up after finishing his jump at the Maccabiah Games on Tuesday night at Hadar Yossef Stadium, his raised index figure was all that needed to be said.
Even though he did not win the competition, Averbukh is No. 1, and that is how he will be remembered.
"That's it, it's finished," he said. "It's difficult, but I am coming into a new life."
In the final competition of his professional career, Averbukh showed his patriotism and gratitude. He immediately ran to grab an Israeli flag, hoisted it in the air and ran down the track following his jump.
He then bowed to every section of the stadium, and when he finished his rounds he yelled to the fans, "Toda raba!"
Although Russia's Igor Pavlov won the gold, heroes never fade. Averbukh said he will still be involved with Israeli sports. Sticking with his patriotism, he said he wants to help other athletes reach the level of success he achieved.
"I don't know where exactly," he said of his next move. "I am going to take one month, two months to prepare for the future, for work. It's difficult."
Tuesday's results were proof that Averbukh will have talented pupils, as Israel was dominant in the first day of athletics.
Dimitri Gluschenko, who won the men's 100-meter and 200m events at the Israeli National Championships earlier this month, won the 100m competition Tuesday. He will race in the 200m event Wednesday.
Gluschenko is living at the Jewish Agency's Absorption Center in Ra'anana after making aliya in May. A native of Ukraine, he has not yet been released from his Ukrainian citizenship and is still unsure whether he will be able to represent Israel with other international competitions.
Noting his recent immigration to Israel, Gluschenko said winning the 100m as a member of the Israeli team at the Maccabiah Games is significant.
"I feel happy that I won because this is the Maccabiah. This is games for Jewish men," he said. "This is a special feeling. I've never felt [like this]."
Not everything, however, had a storybook ending Tuesday.
Dmitriy Kroyter, the 16-year-old Israeli high jumper who won the IAAF World Youth Championships high jump Saturday in Italy, couldn't capture the gold.
He said the closeness of the Maccabiah Games and the European Championships didn't give him time for proper rest, which affected his performance.
Despite not winning, Kroyter was a fan favorite and virtually all the spectators voiced their support for the silver medalist.
"I'm not so happy after the competition," he said. "A big thanks to all the people who came. It's wonderful. I was really happy when I saw how many people were here."
Russia's Andrey Tereshin took home the gold, although he said he wished he executed his highest jumps better.
Kroyter and Averbukh may have lost but Israel fared well Tuesday.
Ymar Getahon won the 1,500-meter for the host nation, after he beat out fellow countryman Noam Ne'eman in the final leg of the race.
Israel showed its physical strength at Hadar Yossef, as it won the gold in women's shotput and hammer throw.
Yevgenya Zvolotny won the women's hammer throw with a 51.99-meter launch and Sivan Abali wrested gold in women's shotput with a 14.58-meter toss.
Russia was Israel's main competition and earned a solid share of hardware.
Adding to Tereshin and Pavlov's success, Russia's Nikita Lebedev edged out a victory in the men's long jump, winning by one-tenth of a meter with a 7.28 meter jump.
Nicole Gitlin earned Canada's lone gold medal with an 11.83 second run in the women's 100-meter.