Israel hoping to build on Olympic success

Blue-and-white swimming delegation to this week’s Worlds led by Toumarkin and Nevo.

Israeli swimmers 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli swimmers 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Despite making history at the London Olympics last year, the 21-year-old Yakov Toumarkin remains as hungry as ever for success as he enters this week’s swimming World Championships in Barcelona.
Toumarkin recorded the best ever result for an Israeli swimmer at the Olympics last summer when he ended the 200-meter backstroke final in seventh place, breaking the previous mark that belonged to Eitan Urbach, who finished the 100m back final at the 2000 Sydney Games in eighth position.
No Israeli swimmer has ever finished higher than sixth in the World Championships and Toumarkin believes he will at least reach the final in Barcelona, as long as he repeats the personal best time he swam in London.
“I will be facing the same rivals as I did in London and I expect to improve on my achievement in the Olympics,” Toumarkin said ahead of the delegation’s departure for Spain. “I believe that if I repeat my record I will be in the final again. I’m sure that all our swimmers will want to show that they have improved since London.”
Besides Toumarkin, Israel has sent seven more swimmers to Barcelona: Guy Barnea, Jonatan Kopelev, Imri Ganiel, Gal Nevo, Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or, Tomer Zamir and the only female on the team, Amit Ivry.
Ivry, Ganiel and Zamir will all already swim in the opening day on Sunday.
Until Toumarkin burst onto the scene, Gal Nevo was regarded as Israel’s best swimmer, and despite recently taking a back seat to the young prodigy, he remains one of the country’s top Olympic athletes.
Nevo ended both the 200m and 400m individual medley events in London in a very respectable 10th place. He also added to his major medal collection last November when he picked up two bronzes in his favorite events at the European Short Course Swimming Championships in Chartres, France.
“My goal is simple. I want to improve my personal bests and hopefully rank as high as possible,” said the 26-year-old.
After standing side-by-side on the podium at last year’s long-course European Championships, Jonatan Kopelev and Guy Barnea are both targeting a place in the final of the 50m backstroke in Barcelona.
Kopelev became the first Israeli swimmer to win a gold medal in the continental championships last May, and Barnea joined him on the podium after finishing in third place.
Nevertheless, both Kopelev and Barnea ended up missing the London Games. The unlucky Kopelev had his appendix removed shortly before the Olympics, while Barnea failed to qualify for the 100m back, with the 50m backstroke not being an Olympic event.
“Kopelev and I have already made history in the European Championships and hopefully we can make more by reaching the final in the worlds,” said Barnea. “I finished the 50m back final in sixth place two years ago and I hope to improve on that.”
Expectations from Ganiel, Shapira Bar-Or and especially youngster Zamir are not that high. However, after becoming the first Israeli female swimmer to advance to an Olympic semifinal in London, Ivry is hoping for further success when she swims the 100m butterfly on Sunday.
“I’m assuming that all our swimmers will swim personal bests and each of them can reach at least a semifinal if they do so,” said national team coach Leonid Kaufman.
“We must always be optimistic.”