As Israel’s athletes start to filter into the Olympic Village in Stratford, Zohar Zimro will be looking to put a controversial few months behind him and conquer the world.
The Israeli marathon runner was given the green light to compete by a disciplinary committee despite failing a drugs test.
Born in Ethiopia, Zimro moved to Israel in 1989, aged 12. He describes himself as a “an ardent Zionist who is extremely proud and honoured to represent Israel” at what will be his first Olympics.
Since the IOC selected a 37-man squad, Zimro has been training hard in his native Ethiopia. Looking ahead to the start of the Games, he said: “My dream is that Israel will remember me achieving something historic at the Olympics. When I train in Ethiopia, my heart is always in Israel.
“To make aliyah as a child from Ethiopia and to end up representing Israel in the Olympics is the closing of a circle – a Cinderella story.”
Zimro is currently training in a remote Ethiopian village with an elite group of runners from around the world.
He trains three times a day, every day of the week, running more than 180km a week at high altitude.
The 35-year-old qualified for the Olympics after completing the Amsterdam Marathon in two hours and 14 minutes.
He is confident he will be able to acclimatise on what is his first visit to London, despite the wet conditions.
Although his weekly mileage is less than his rivals, Zimro has a specific game-plan. “When professional runners are training, they often run about 200km a week, but due to the high altitude, I run slightly shorter distances, but with greater intensity,” he said.
Meanwhile, Israeli swimmer Jonatan Kopelev looks set to miss the Olympics. The European 50m backstroke gold medalist underwent an emergency operation to have his appendix removed.