Blue-and-white sets modest Olympic goals

preparations for the London 2012 Olympic games are entering the final stretch.

Lee Korzits 311 (photo credit: Richard Langdon/Perth 2011)
Lee Korzits 311
(photo credit: Richard Langdon/Perth 2011)
With less than six months to go until the opening ceremony of the Olympics, the preparations for London 2012 are entering the final stretch.
The man overseeing Israel’s buildup is the director of the country’s Elite Sport Department, Gili Lostig, and he is optimistic the delegation is going to meet the targets set for it by the Olympic Committee of Israel.
Some 25 Israeli sportsmen and women have already booked their flight to London and around 10 more are set to do so – according to Lostig’s estimation – in the 177 days remaining until the Games get underway.
“If we compare the last two years to the equivalent years before previous Olympics than our results are certainly better,” Lostig told me on Tuesday.
“It is still too early to talk about candidates for medals. I’m not one of those people who come out with statements. However, I think that we should certainly meet the target we set ourselves of winning at least one medal, having a first female medal winner since 1992 and taking a medal in an event we have never won one in before.”
There are swimmers, gymnasts and windsurfers among the 25 Israelis to have already secured their place in the Olympics, but there will not be any Taekwondo fighters representing the country in the Games, which Lostig acknowledges is a significant failure.
Taekwondo was one of six sports together with athletics, swimming, windsurfing, judo and rhythmic gymnastics earmarked by the OCI ahead of the Games.
The six preferred sports received extra funding and support, hence the bitter frustration after no Israeli managed to meet the criteria in the European Taekwondo Qualification Tournament over the past weekend.
“It is a massive disappointment,” Lostig admitted.
“They reached some very nice achievements in recent years, highlighted by Bat-El Gatterer’s European Championship gold medal in 2010.
“We knew that it would be difficult to reach the Olympic Taekwondo events, with only 16 competitors taking part in Gatterer’s weight category for example.
“But we took that into account and knew that if we get a fighter in we would have a good chance of winning a medal and that is one of the reasons we chose this sport.
“But there’s no hiding from the fact that we failed big time.”
Another field in which Israelis have struggled for success is athletics.
Pole-vaulter Jillian Schwartz set the criteria this past Saturday, but at the moment the only other Israeli to have secured his place in the athletics competitions in London is marathon runner Zohar Zmiro. “Unfortunately, Israeli sport is based on a very narrow pyramid foundation so when a top sportsman retires, like Alex Averbukh in athletics, you are left with a massive void,” Lostig explained.
“We decided to focus on the jumping events in athletics and progress has certainly been made in recent years with the likes of Danielle Frenkel and Dima Kroyter.
“Athletics is the ‘queen of sports’ and the most important sport in the Olympic Games. Israel must also target success on the biggest Olympic stage and not just in events in which it has a relative advantage and might be slightly easier to do well in.
“A self-respecting sporting nation must do its best to do well in athletics. We have, however, prioritized the different disciplines in athletics, focusing on the jumping events as we have a tradition of succeeding in these competitions as well as good coaches and good facilities. These are also more technical events and we have a better chance of doing well in these competitions compared to ones which depend completely on genetics like the sprints.”
Despite the lack of achievements in athletics and the failure in Taekwondo, Lostig believes the current system is the only way forward and has every confidence that it will pay off in London in six months’ time.
“Between 80 to 90 percent of our medals in target events over the last two years came from our preferred sports so we are seeing results from our investments,” he said.
“This is the only way to succeed in competitive sport.
“After the 1996 Atlanta Olympics the Levine commission recommended to target only several sports, because if you try and give everyone something you end up preserving mediocrity.
“In competitive sport you need to give a lot to the few to succeed. That is the only way to do well. We are not social services. If you are good and have a chance of doing well you will be rewarded.”
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