Stupendous sports

From Esther Roth-Shachamarov finishes sixth in the 1976 Olympics to Gal Fridman's 2004 Olympic gold medal.

gal friedman gold 224 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
gal friedman gold 224 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Esther Roth-Shachamarov finishes sixth in the 1976 Olympics Arguably the most naturally gifted Israeli athlete ever, Esther Roth-Shachamarov achieved an amazing feat by finishing sixth in the 100 meter hurdles at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Roth-Shachamarov's accomplishment is even more remarkable when considering that all five of the women that finished ahead of her were from the Soviet bloc and quite likely under the influence of some banned substance or another. Maccabi Tel Aviv's 1977 European Championship Rarely does a sporting event transcend the confines of the playing surface and dominate the psyche of a nation. In 1977, Maccabi Tel Aviv's pursuit of the European Basketball Championship exceeded the boundaries of competition for months and changed Israeli sports forever. The 91-79 defeat of CSKA Moscow in the semifinal group in Virton, Belgium after the Soviets refused to play Maccabi in Israel or Russia is the biggest win an Israeli sports team has ever recorded for countless reasons. Two months later, Maccabi completed the unlikeliest of triumphs and claimed its first European Championship with a dramatic 78-77 win over Mobilgirgi Varese, a victory that has become the benchmark to every future Israeli sporting achievement. Yael Arad's 1992 Olympic silver medal Numerous Israeli athletes dreamed and competed for a medal in nine different Olympics, but none managed to realize their greatest ambition until Yael Arad came along at the 1992 Barcelona Games. Competing in the 61-kilogram judo competition, Arad narrowly lost in the final to Frenchwoman Catherine Fleury-Vachon, but by finishing second claimed Israel's first ever Olympic medal and returned to the country as a national hero. Israel-France 3-2 in 1993 There was no question that Israel would lose to France in Paris in October 1993, the only question was by what margin. In its seven prior 1994 World Cup qualifiers the national team had lost five times and drawn twice, falling to a humiliating 4-0 home defeat to France and a 5-0 loss to Sweden. A stoppage time goal by Reuven Atar in the French capital, however, gave Israel an amazing 3-2 victory and shocked Europe. The win may not have qualified Israel for a tournament, but it remains the side's biggest road win to date and gave it the confidence that it can compete at the European level. Gal Fridman's 2004 Olympic gold medal In the summer of 2004 windsurfing practically became a national sport after Gal Fridman claimed Israel's first and currently only Olympic gold medal. Fridman, who also won a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics, went from almost complete obscurity to the front page of The New York Times in a few days of competition in Athens. Alex Averbukh's second straight European pole-vault championship When Alex Averbukh made aliya in 1999, no one foresaw the impact he would have on Israeli athletics. The pole-vaulter won a bronze medal at the World Championships the same year he arrived in Israel and a silver medal at the same event two years later. His greatest achievement came, however, in the 2006 European Championships in Goteborg when he defended his gold medal from 2002, finishing first with a jump of 5.70 meters.