Ze’evi, Toumarkin in delicate passing of guard

Every career has to end at some stage, but while one athlete declines, another blossoms, as was clearly evident at Olympics.

Arik Ze'evi (photo credit: EJU)
Arik Ze'evi
(photo credit: EJU)
In sports, as in life, there is an eternal cycle intertwining the old and the new.
Every career has to end at some stage, but while one athlete declines, another blossoms, as was clearly evident on Thursday.
Arik Ze’evi cemented his place as one of Israel’s all-time greats long ago, but sadly, Thursday’s defeat after just 43 seconds of his first round match against Dimitri Peters marked the end of the road for the judo legend.
The 35-year-old Ze’evi was aiming to become the oldest ever winner of an Olympic judo medal, but he never came close, suffering a humbling exit.
It seemed only natural for Ze’evi to retire after his early defeat in the Beijing Games four years ago.
He considered it, but chose to fight on.
The past four years may not have been the best of Ze’evi’s career, but they were surely the most courageous.
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He overcame injury and inconsistency to give himself one more chance at Olympic glory, and it all seemed to be going to plan beautifully when he pocketed his fourth European Championship gold medal, the first in eight years, earlier this year.
However, a remarkable career ended in pathetic fashion on Thursday, with Ze’evi being forced to throw in the white towel after being pinned to the mat by Peters.
Ze’evi’s career will still be deservedly celebrated for many years to come, but the void he leaves behind will be filled.
Yakov Toumarkin proved he could take Ze’evi’s place and realize the sporting dreams of Israeli fans after becoming just the second Israeli to contest an individual swimming final at the Olympics on Thursday night.
The first to do so was Eitan Urbach some 12 years ago.
Reaching a final may not sound all that impressive, but considering swimming is one of the Olympic Games’ two showcase sports, together with athletics, and is contested by virtually every country, finishing among the top eight is simply monumental by Israeli standards.
But the best part of it all is that Toumarkin is just 20 years old.
A mere year ago, he was the best kept secret in Israeli sports.
His undoubted talent was clear for all to see when he won two medals in both the Youth Olympics and European Junior Championships in 2010.
But being a swimmer in a country dominated by soccer and basketball meant Toumarkin’s achievements were easily overshadowed.
Once every four years the Olympic athletes get the chance to grab the public’s attention and Toumarkin made the most of his opportunity in London.
Ze’evi became a household name thanks to the bronze medal he won at the 2004 Athens Games.
Toumarkin took a significant first step in that direction over the past couple of days.
The future seems blindly bright for Toumarkin.
Ze’evi may be gone, but the cycle continues.