Israelis aim for glory at worlds

Only 5 local swimmers have reached a final at the FINA Championships.

Guy Barnea 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Guy Barnea 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A record 15 swimmers will be representing Israel at the World Championships in Rome this week and they will all be dreaming of adding their name to the short list of Israelis to reach world finals in the past. Yoav Bruck was the first Israeli to reach a World Championship final in 1994, doing so in the 50 meters freestyle. Three years later Eitan Urbach participated in the 100m backstroke final, with Yoav Gath (200m backstroke) and Vered Borochovsky (50m butterfly) reaching finals in 2001. Borochovsky raced a second straight final in the 50m butterfly in 2003, with Miki Malul the fifth, and so far last, Israeli to compete in a world final, finishing the 50m breaststroke in sixth position two years ago. Three Israelis have a good chance of reaching a final in Rome, with one of them even having an outside chance of winning an historic medal. Guy Barnea recorded the second fastest time in the world this year in the 50m backstroke at the Maccabiah, with his Israeli record of 24.64 seconds just 31 hundredths of a second outside the world record. The 21-year-old could claim a medal if he improves his personal best and will also be hoping to advance at least to the semifinals of the 100m backstroke. Another final hopeful, Malul, is entering the championships in good form and will be disappointed if he fails to reach a second straight final in the 50m breaststroke. Amit Ivri is currently Israel's best female swimmer and she has a reasonable chance of reaching the final of the 50m butterfly. Gal Nevo is Israel's best chance of reaching a final of an Olympic event (the 50m backstroke, 50m breaststroke and 50m butterfly are not competed at the Olympic Games). The 22-year-old finished the 200m and 400m Individual Medley in 13th and 11th place respectively at the Beijing Games and with a significant improvement to his personal best could reach a final. Two more Israelis who will be confident of reaching a semifinal are Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or (200m freestyle) and Tom Be'eri (200m breaststroke), with the remainder of the team hoping to set personal bests and gain experience for the future. "We expect all our swimmers to record personal bests and for the top ones to reach semifinals and finals," team Israel swimming coach Leonid Kaufman said. "I'm pleased we are sending a big team to the championships and I'm not scared that some might not come close to advancing to semifinals. They will be getting invaluable experience."