Euro success for Israel

By Simon Griver, May 31, 2012
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Israel claimed a record medal haul at the European Swimming Championships in Hungary.

Jonatan Kopelev earned Israel their first-ever gold medal at the Championships by winning the 50m backstroke in Debrecen.

Kopelev said: “The feeling is immense. It’s amazing. I’ve got shivers all over my body.”

Guy Barnea took bronze in the same event — the first time two Israelis have stood on the podium in a major championship.

Going into the event, Israel had only won six medals in all the previous European Swimming Championships but they went home with five after Yakov Toumarkin won bronze in the 100m and 200m backstroke and Amit Ivri became the first Israeli woman to win a medal in the competition after taking bronze in the 100m butterfly.

Both will swim at the Olympic Games in London along with Gal Nevo, who finished a disappointing fourth in the 400m medley, and 200m backstroke swimmer Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or. However, Kopelev and Barnea will not be in London as the 50m backstroke is not an Olympic event.

Israel’s national swimming coach Leonid Kaufmann said: “The European Championships is not the Olympics and success in London will be if Israeli swimmers reach finals.”

There was also joy for Israel at the European Gymnastics Championships in France where Alexander Shatilov took bronze in the artistic gymnastics competition.

Having also won bronze in last year’s world championships and silver in the European Championships two years ago, Shatilov said: “I thought I deserved better than bronze. Frankly I’m disappointed.” Shatilov is considered one Israel’s top medal prospects in London.

There was a surprise at the windsurfing World Cup event in Holland when Shahar Zuberi won the gold medal, overhauling Nimrod Mashiah who could only manage eighth.

With only one competitor from each country allowed, Zuberi, who won bronze in Beijing in 2008, will represent Israel at the Olympics.

    Last updated: 2:44pm, May 31 2012