Paralympic athletes frustrated by lack of funds

By Simon Griver, September 19, 2008

Israel's Paralympic squad have blamed financial constraints for their disappointing performance in Beijing.
The 42-person delegation returns home today with less than half the medals they won in Athens four years ago and without a single gold.

Israel claimed six medals, five silver and one bronze, compared to 13 medals in the last games, which included four golds.

Alon Ben David, Director of Resource Development for the Israel Paralympics Committee, told the JC that he was not disappointed by the lack of medals. "We expected to win about six medals," he said. "Swimmer Yitzhak Mamistvalov, who won three medals in Athens including two golds, could not compete because he was injured in a car accident, while another swimmer, Keren Leibovitz, who also won three medals in 2004, had not fully recovered from injury.

"But we could have done better with a bigger budget," he said. "Our athletes receive less than 10 per cent of the support given to Olympic athletes. In the UK, disabled athletes get much more."

Ben David cites the example of Shraga Weinberg and Boaz Kramer, who won silver in the men's doubles wheelchair tennis competition. "They did not have a budget to travel abroad to major international competitions," he said. "Had they been able to compete in five or six big tournaments they would certainly have won gold."

Inbal Pezaro will be Israel's best medal hope in London in 2012. The 21-year-old swimmer, who is paralysed from the waist down, won three silvers.

    Last updated: 2:56pm, September 18 2008