True grit of Israel's Paralympic flag-bearer Doron Shaziri
Eyes on the prize: Israel's Doron Shaziri
You might think that, after losing his left leg to a landmine and his wife to cancer, Doron Shaziri would not have much to smile about.
But Israel’s Paralympic Opening Ceremony flag-bearer is accustomed to adversity and fights back with a perma-grin that masks his steely determination.
The 45-year-old veteran arrived at London 2012 — his fifth Games — hoping to add gold to his collection of silver and bronze medals in the shooting competitions.
Gold was not to be but, on Wednesday, Shaziri picked up another silver, finishing second in the 50-metre three position rifle shooting. That success followed Tuesday’s disappointment in the 50m prone rifle event when he came sixth at the Royal Artillery Barracks.
Sport is important, but it is not everything
Win or lose, the former sniper has beamed his way around the Athletes’ Village.
“I’m always smiling,” he said. “You must take sport in the correct proportion. It was not always like that for me, but I learnt you cannot always make a drama out of everything.
“There are ups, and there are downs. The main thing is to concentrate on the present moment. There is no point in thinking about what just finished. Move on. I’m always concentrating for the next competition.”
Shaziri was seriously injured in 1987 at the age of 18 while on patrol in Lebanon as a new IDF recruit. Two of his fellow troops accidentally wandered into a minefield and on to a mine. Shaziri went to help and was himself blown up.
The man who now displays such nonchalance about the incident was, seemingly, also pretty relaxed about it at the time.
Recovering in the military hospital, Shaziri said his thoughts had quickly turned to the future: “I saw my leg was lost — it was impossible to miss that — and I thought, how will I walk, how will it look?”
He immediately started planning for his new life with a prosthetic leg, determined that the injury would not hold him back. By 1994, Shaziri was showing great talent as an engineer and set up his own business, adapting wheelchairs for other injured soldiers.
It was a move that, together with his shooting ability, would ultimately lead to the Paralympics and earn him the respect of fellow teammates, many of whom he has helped adapt wheelchairs and equipment for competition.
For London 2012, he was selected to carry the Israeli flag into the Olympic Stadium at the Opening Ceremony.
“It was a great honour to carry the symbol of the country and to connect the sport with what I and Israel stand for,” he said.
In the run-up to London, tragedy struck again with Shaziri’s wife’s death two years ago. But once more he knuckled down to overcome his heartache, throwing his attention into training for his events.
He told his son and daughter not to come to support him in London, because he becomes “like a monk in competition”.
With experience, he said, he has come to realise that in a sport where a single millimetre can be the difference between winning gold and going home empty-handed, it really is the taking part that counts.
“The ability to smile is a lot to do with your character. Try to be positive — that’s the only thing you can do.
“I’m going with the flow of life. I do not make big plans. We have so much to worry about in Israel. Bad experiences like losing my wife make you understand that, though sport is important, it is not everything.”