Olympics: Palli finally qualifies for the Olympics

21-year-old high jumper will represent Israel in Beijing after clearing 2,27 m in Jerusalem.

niki palli 224.88 (photo credit: Noa Landes)
niki palli 224.88
(photo credit: Noa Landes)
Niki Palli, the 21-year old high-jumper from Haifa, will represent Israel at the 2008 Beijing Olympics next month after clearing 2.27 meters in Jerusalem on Sunday. Palli cleared the height on his second attempt at the Hebrew University athletic complex in Givat Ram as part of the Athletics Grand Prix, which featured several other track and field events. Palli cleared 2.04, 2.15 and 2.20 meters with a single jump before hitting 2.27, but could not clear 2.33, which would have been a personal record. His current highest jump is 2.30 meters. This is the second time this month that Palli has jumped 2.27m, having cleared that height at a competition last week in Haifa that the Olympic Committee of Israel did not recognize. While Palli was happy to have qualified, he voiced criticism of the media and disappointment in his supporters following the jump. "I'm disappointed that people didn't believe that I could do this," Palli told The Jerusalem Post. "I hope now that they will. I'm very happy to have proved to everyone that I'm good enough to compete in the Olympics." Palli said that he was satisfied to have succeeded in Jerusalem after having hit 2.27 meters in Haifa. "I did it last week, so I'm happy to have done it again here," he said. "I want to thank my coach, my family and my girlfriend." But Palli added that he would not rest on his laurels or take a break, but rather would continue practicing for Beijing, where competition will start in just over a month. While Palli did not specify a numeric goal for the Olympics, he was confident that he could reach and exceed 2.33. Also Sunday, the OCI added swimmer Alon Mandel to the Israeli delegation after it was confirmed that European gold medalist Ioannis Drymonakos had been punished for testing positive in a drug test, and therefore Mandel had met the criteria of finishing among the top 12 at the European Championships in March. Mandel set an Israeli record of 1 minute and 59.79 seconds in the 200 meter butterfly race at the championships, but originally cruelly missed out on the all important 12th position by two hundredths of a second. The OCI also decided on Sunday that swimmer Max Jaben will be suspended from the delegation until his B sample is checked on Wednesday. The 22-year-old, who made Aliya from the US after competing at the 2005 Maccabiah games, learned last week that the A sample of a drug test taken from him in April had been found to be positive. Allon Sinai contributed to this report.