Israeli athletes primed for medals as Rio spotlight shifts to Paralympics

Israel to be represented by 33 athletes in 11 disciplines.

Moran Samuel (photo credit: OCI)
Moran Samuel
(photo credit: OCI)
The Rio Paralympics get under way on Wednesday night with the opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium.
The competitions will begin on Thursday and run until September 18 at the same venues and facilities as the Olympic Games and under the same organizing committee.
Wheelchair tennis player Shraga Vainberg, who won a bronze in the doubles at London 2012 and a silver four years earlier, will be Israel’s flag bearer.
Over 4,300 athletes from 176 countries will compete in 23 disciplines in Rio. Israel will be represented by 33 athletes in 11 disciplines.
The first Israeli athletes who arrived at the Olympic Village encountered numerous problems at their residence, from uncleared garbage to inadequate facilities.
They were quickly solved and the head of the delegation Dr. Ron Bolotin said the athletes are pleased, and even pleasantly surprised, with the conditions due to their low expectations and the rumors regarding the many issues with the village.
Israel has won a total of 380 medals since the first Paralympics in Rome in 1960, including 124 gold medals.
The Paralympics have become more and more competitive over the years and simply matching the achievements from London 2012 when the Israeli delegation returned home with eight medals, including one gold courtesy of wheelchair tennis player Noam Gershony, will be regarded as a resounding success.
Among those targeting a podium finish in Rio is Dror Cohen, who will take part in the sailing Sonar competition with Arnon Efrati and Shimon Ben Yakov.
“We are really hungry for success and want to bring pride to ourselves and to Israel,” said Cohen, who won a gold medal in Athens 2004.
“Everyone wants to win and I hope we want it more than everyone else.
We believe we can do it.”
Just like the Rio Olympics, there has also been plenty of controversy surrounding the Paralympics.
Even after approving the transfer of about $71 million in government funds, part of it briefly delayed by prosecutors, Brazil is struggling to meet its commitments to the Games, according to Sir Philip Craven, the president of the International Paralympic Committee.
“Never before in the 56-year history of the Paralympic Games have we faced circumstances like this. Clearly Brazil is in a far different position now to the one that it was in October 2009, when it won the right to stage the Games,” Craven said.
The Games have also been marred by a doping scandal. Russia’s disabled athletes will not be allowed to compete after their country was banned because of a state-sponsored sports doping program.
“The International Paralympic Committee... will not allow individual Russian athletes to participate as neutral athletes at the Rio Games”, the organization said on its website (www.
“The decision followed individual requests by more than 175 Russian athletes to compete at the Paralympic Games which open on September 7.”
The Court of Arbitration for Sport, sport’s highest tribunal, had previously rejected a Russian Paralympic Committee appeal against the IPC suspension.
Russia appealed against the CAS ruling to the Swiss Federal Court, which declined to issue a preliminary injunction that would have let their disabled athletes compete in Rio.
These will, however, also be record-breaking Paralympic Games, with the IPC believing the events will reach a cumulative global audience topping four billion viewers for the first time.
The Games will be covered by television, radio and online outlets in a record 154 countries, a 30 percent increase in territories showing London 2012.
“We are excited to be able to build on the success of 2012, where we reached a cumulative 3.8 billion viewers, with a number of new broadcasters coming on board,” said Alexis Schaefer, the IPC’s marketing and commercial director.
“Existing partners have also recognized the demand and potential of Para-sport by boosting their coverage, utilizing new technologies and spreading it across platforms.”
Channel 1 will broadcast the Paralympics in Israel, with a daily wrap-up magazine show to be shown every evening. Finals reached by Israelis in any event will be shown live.
Reuters and TNS contributed to this report.