Sinai's London Diary: Performing with pressure

Alex Shatilov became the latest of Israel’s medal hopefuls to feel the pangs of frustration.

Alex Shatilov 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Alex Shatilov 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One by one they fall, and the pressure only increases.
Alex Shatilov became the latest of Israel’s medal hopefuls to feel the pangs of frustration at failing to live up to his, and the nation’s, expectations on Sunday.
The 25-year-old can be extremely proud at ending the gymnastics floor final in sixth place overall, but he wore an expression of sheer disappointment after registering a score of 15.333, significantly lower than he expected.
Shatilov started off well, but a costly mistake soon after ended his hopes of scaling the podium and left Israel with no medals with seven days remaining until the closing ceremony and most of the country’s favorites already boarding flights home.
That invisible, yet unmistakably present sensation of pressure, took its toll on yet another of Israel’s top athletes, who have so far kept coming up just short when it mattered most.
Finishing the floor final at the Olympics in sixth place is nothing short of an amazing achievement, but it wasn’t just his final position which upset Shatilov so much.
Shatilov, and for that matter also Alice Schlesinger, Arik Ze’evi and Shahar Zubari, were mainly saddened by the fact that they failed to perform to their fullest potential.
With three other gymnasts scoring 15.800 or more, Shatilov may well have still missed out on a medal even without Sunday’s regrettable mistakes.
However, what makes the heartache that much worse is the fact that Shatilov can’t tell himself that he performed to perfection but lost out to superior gymnasts.
Shatilov will always know that the final could have ended differently had he done things better.
Hopefully, that is a regret that will be spared of Lee Korzits on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old windsurfer, the two-time defending world champion, entered Sunday’s races ideally placed in second position.
But despite maintaining her overall ranking on Sunday, she finds herself in a real scrap for a top three finish in Tuesday’s medal race after only ending the day’s races in ninth and 11th place, respectively.
As if the fact that Korzits began the Olympics as Israel’s best medal prospect didn’t put her under enough pressure, she now carries the entire nation’s hopes on her shoulders being the country’s only remaining realistic medal hope following the setbacks experienced by her teammates.
The easy going Korzits has the perfect temperament to deal with this situation, but she will require nothing short of her best on Tuesday.
“I enjoy the fact that people expect so much from me and I don’t feel the pressure,” Korzits said on Sunday. “I gave my best on Sunday and I remain well placed ahead of the final.
“My rivals are in a similar position to me, but I enjoy the pressure and I’m not sure they do as much.”
Korzits is anything but your typical athlete.
Hopefully, that will also prove to be what propels her to the podium on Tuesday.