Olympic preparation, qualification on the docket at Euros

Israel coach Leonid Kaufman is hoping at least four more of his swimmers will qualify for the London Olympics.

Israeli swimmer Guy Barnea (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli swimmer Guy Barnea
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel coach Leonid Kaufman is hoping at least four more of his swimmers will qualify for the London Olympics at the 31st European Championships which get underway in Debrecen, Hungary, on Monday.
Gal Nevo, Yakov Toumarkin and Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or are the only Israeli swimmers to have currently secured their place at the 2012 Games, but Kaufman, who has been in charge of the national team in 13 of the past 18 years, is confident the likes of Amit Ivri, Guy Barnea, Jonatan Kopelev and Alon Mandel will be joining them at the London Aquatics Centre in two months time.
“We are taking a record 16 swimmers to these championships and each of them has a set of goals,” Kaufman said.
“The three swimmers who have already qualified for the Olympics will use this event to gather experience, while Ivri, Kopelev, Barnea and Mandel will all be aiming to set the Olympic criteria. The goal for the younger swimmers will be to set personal bests and familiarize themselves with the world of major competitions.
“If we return from Hungary with just three swimmers qualified for London that would be sad. Our goal is that four more will join them.”
Kopelev and Barnea will already be hoping to book their place at the Olympics in the first day of the championships on Monday, in the men’s 100- meter backstroke.
Barnea came agonizingly close to qualifying for the Olympics in the World Championships in Shanghai last summer, finishing his 100m back heat just three hundredths of a second shy of the Olympic Qualifying Time set at 54.40 seconds by FINA.
Shapira Bar-Or and Toumarkin will also take part in the 100m back heats and Barnea knows he faces a tough battle just to reach the evening semifinals as only two swimmers from any one country can be among the last 16.
Each country can also only send two swimmers to any particular event at the Olympics, meaning that if more than two Israelis complete the course in 54.40s or less, only the quickest two will be going to London.
“There are young swimmers battling me for an Olympic spot, which makes the situation especially interesting,” said Barnea.
On TV: European Swimming Championships
(live on Eurosport at 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.)