Rhythmic gymnast Neta Rivkin will hold Israel’s blue-and-white flag aloft at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, to be held August 5 to 21.
The Olympic delegation that will be led into the stadium by Rivkin is Israel’s largest one since the country’s first Olympic Games in 1952. The 47 qualifiers will compete in 17 categories, including Israel’s first Olympic competitors in golf, triathlon and mountain biking.
Rivkin, who finished seventh in her category at the 2012 London Games, is one of 11 repeat Olympic athletes from Israel who are hoping for a spot on the medalists’ podium.
She tells ISRAEL21c that she will focus on doing her personal best at Rio. “Now I’m in the Baku World Cup,” she texted from Azerbaijan on July 20.
Another Israeli hopeful is windsurfer Shahar Zubari, who won Israel’s most recent Olympic medal when he took a bronze home from Beijing in 2008.
“I think I have pretty high chances. I feel in good shape,” Zubari tells ISRAEL21c from Brazil, where he is training four or five hours a day. “But on the other hand, my competitors are all very strong, so any one of us can win a medal.”
Zubari, who will turn 30 on September 1, lives in Tel Aviv and trains all around the world.
ISRAEL21c caught up with Israeli artistic gymnast Alex Shatilov at a Russian training camp on July 20. Shatilov has won several medals at world and European championships in floor exercise and competed in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics.
“I was in two Games already and came close to the podium, and this time I hope to get there,” he says. “I think I have a good chance.” Shatilov trains four or five hours each day.
Freestyle wrestler Ilana Kratysh, winner of the World Qualification Tournament in Mongolia last April, is Israel’s first female Olympic wrestler. Laetitia Beck is the first Israeli Olympic golfer. Ron Darmon brings Israel into the triathlon category and Shlomi Haimy is the pioneer in mountain biking.
The 2016 delegation also includes 34 coaches and about 25 support staff.
In 16 Olympic Games, Israeli has won seven medals — in judo, sailing, and canoeing. The only gold medalist was windsurfer Gal Fridman (Athens, 2004) and he also won a bronze medal in Atlanta in 1996.