Israeli artistic gymnast Artem Dolgopyat made history on Sunday, winning an Olympic gold medal in the finals of the men’s floor exercise at the 2020 Tokyo Games. It was the second gold medal ever won by an Israeli Olympic athlete.
Artem Dolgopyat (ISR) celebrates winning the gold medal on the floor during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Ariake Gymnastics Center (ROBERT DEUTSCH-USA TODAY SPORTS)
Spaniard Rayderley Miguel Zapata received an identical score, but came in second after ranking lower due to the higher level of Dolgopyat’s exercise.
China’s Xiao Ruoteng took the bronze for his third medal of the Tokyo Games.
Dolgopyat told reporters after winning that “I don’t really have the words, I am still in heaven. I want to say thank you to everyone – I love everyone.”
“My floor exercise was not the best; in the qualifiers, I did better. I was very stressed that it would not even be enough for a medal, but everyone was excited and made mistakes and that was enough for me – and I am very happy,” he said.
Dolgopyat will be heading home with NIS 500,000 in prize money along with his new gold medal.
“Artem doesn’t even understand what an achievement it is – it’s something inconceivable to Israeli sports,” said Alex Shtilov, Dolgopyat’s teammate on the Israeli gymnastics team. “I believed he could be an Olympic champion. Artem and his coach deserved this.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was quick to praise the gold medalist, interrupting the cabinet meeting taking place at the time to phone Dolgopyat.
“Thank you, Artem! You’ve made Blue and White history,” said Bennett as Israeli ministers applauded the incredible achievement.
Bennett also said the win caused “great pride and excitement to all Israelis.”
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also praised Dolgopyat, referring to his win as “history in Tokyo!” in a tweet.
Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper said he was “full of appreciation for this great gymnast, who has worked hard and modestly for years, and achieved an unprecedented achievement with Israel’s first medal in the sport – and not just any medal: a gold medal!” he exulted.
“Hopefully for all of us, through Artem’s unprecedented success, we will be able to further develop the sport and its athletes in Israel,” Tropper said.
This is the first Olympic gold medal for Israel since Gal Friedman won the gold for windsurfing at the 2004 Athens Games.
This is also the first Olympic medal for Israel in the Gymnastics category, and its third medal overall in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Last Friday, Avishag Semberg won the bronze in Taekwondo and on Saturday, Israel’s Judo Team took home the bronze in the team competition.
As Semberg was busy winning Israel’s first bronze medal for the 2020 Olympic Games, Dolgopyat was busy qualifying for the finals of the men’s floor exercise from the first place ranking overall, after setting an impressive score of 15.20 in the exercise he performed.
The 24-year-old competed in the first group. Later in the day, two other groups of gymnasts also competed, but at the end of the competition day, Dolgopyat held on to first place.
The score he earned during the qualifiers did not help him in the final, however, but was reset prior to Sunday’s exercise.
Artem Dolgopyat of Israel celebrates after winning gold
Artem’s passion for gymnastics goes back to the tender age of six when he first signed up to attend his local club in Dnirpo, Ukraine, as he followed in the footsteps of his gymnast father. In 2009, Dolgopyat’s family moved to Israel and settled in Tel Aviv where he quickly became a standout at the Maccabi sports club.
Dolgopyat continued to compete at the top youth competitions, finally breaking through in 2017 when he won a silver medal in the floor exercise at the World Championships held in Montreal, Canada.
That same year saw him also win medals at the Maccabiah Games, which led him to medals in floor exercises both in 2018 and 2019 at the European Championships.
Dolgopyat captured gold in the floor exercise and bronze in the vault at the 2020 European Championships held in Turkey.
He qualified for the Tokyo Games by winning a silver medal in the floor exercise at the 2019 World Championships held in Stuttgart, Germany.
At the 2020 European Championships held in Turkey, Dolgopyat captured gold in the floor exercise and bronze in the vault as expectations were raised up a bar. He finally reached the pinnacle of his career on Sunday, winning a gold medal in Tokyo.
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.