Israel hopes for medals as Paralympics get started

Swimmer Inbal Pezaro leads confident delegation to London, hungry to surpass 6 medals it won in Beijing.

2012 Israeli Paralympic Delegation 370 (photo credit: Courtesy/GPO)
2012 Israeli Paralympic Delegation 370
(photo credit: Courtesy/GPO)
The 2012 Paralympics get underway in London on Wednesday and Israel’s delegation will be confident of returning home with plenty of medals following the blue-and-white’s failure to scale the podium in the Olympics earlier this month.
Israel is sending 25 athletes to London, 18 men and seven women, and will be hoping to at least equal its medal tally from Beijing four years ago when it amassed six medals in total, five silvers and one bronze.
The undoubted star of the team is swimmer Inbal Pezaro, who already has five Olympic medals to her name, winning a bronze and a silver in Athens 2004 and claiming three silvers in China four years later.
Pezaro, who is still just 25-years-old, will compete in four events in London and will be confident of claiming multiple medals once more after taking three medals at the 2010 World Championships, including a gold in the 100- meter freestyle in the S5 disability class.
“It is tough to predict what my chances are at the moment,” Pezaro said earlier this week ahead of her departure for London.
“I have confidence in my own abilities, but you never know what your rivals might do.
“I hope to rank among the top three. I’m going to London with high expectations, but realistic ones.”
Israel will send five more swimmers to London: Itzhak Mamistvalov, Yoav Valinsky, Inbal Ganapol Shwartz, Iad Shalabi and Erel Halevi.
The participation of Mamistvalov in the Paralympics was marred with controversy due to his conviction of negligent homicide in July 2010.
In August 2008, Mamistvalov, who was born with cerebral palsy, lost control of his car and hit a crowded bus stop, killing two people and injuring several others.
However, due to his severe disability he was spared a prison sentence and was only handed 400 hours of community service, while also having his driving license revoked.
Mamistvalov, who won three medals in Athens 2004, was withdrawn from the Israel delegation to the Beijing Games due to the accident, but his inclusion in the team to London angered the families of those killed in the accident who claim that he is not worthy of representing Israel.
Noam Gershony, Boaz Kramer and Shraga Vainberg will represent Israel in the Quad wheelchair tournaments, with Gershony having a real chance at taking a medal after winning the French Open at Roland Garros earlier this year.
Dror Cohen, Benny Vexler and Arnon Efrati will take part in the three-person Keelboat (Sonar) competition and will be optimistic of reaching the podium after winning the World Championships at the Paralympic venue in Weymouth.
Shimon Ben-Yakov and Hagar Zehavi will compete in the two-person Keelboat (SKUD18).
Israel will send two representatives to the table tennis competitions: Liran Geva and Shay Siada.
Doron Shaziri, who will carry the Israel flag in the opening ceremony, will take part in the shooting events, while Koby Lion, Nati Groberg and Pascale Bercovitch will participate in the road cycling races.
Moran Samuel, Reuven Magnagey and Olga Sokolov will compete in the rowing, with Yonatan Dresler to take part in the equestrian events and Gadi Yarkoni to race the marathon for the blind.
On TV: Paralympics Opening Ceremony (live on Channel 1 at 10:15 p.m.)