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July 10, 2016 5:38 am

Ahead of 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Israeli Athletes Express Expectations, Pride

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

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Sprinter Donald Sanford will be representing Israel at the 2016 Olympic Games. Photo: Twitter.

Sprinter Donald Sanford will be representing Israel at the 2016 Olympic Games. Photo: Twitter.

Israeli athletes talked this week about their preparations and expectations ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

“The closer to the competition, the more confident I become,” American-Israeli sprinter Donald Sanford, 29, said in a video posted online by Israel’s official Twitter channel. “I train very hard for this and I love it, every day. It’s what I live for.”

He added, “Sometimes I get nervous right before the race, but when the gun goes off, boom, ‘ani muchan,’ I’m ready to go and I’m excited.”

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Swimmer Yakov Toumarkin, who will also be representing Israel at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, said, “When you come to the race, it’s the big time. You have the adrenaline, motivation…I think my goal this year is to beat my record. I think the most expectation is to myself and then to everyone around me.”

Tourmarkin, 24, won two silver medals at the 2015 European Short Course Championships. The athlete started swimming when he was 6, and is determined to prove to himself that he can do better than he has in the past. Fellow Israeli swimmer Amit Ivri, also on Team Israel for the 2016 Olympic Games, said something similar.

“I have a goal to achieve for myself, and that’s to beat all my records and to be better,” Ivri, who won a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games, said in a video posted by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The 2016 Summer Games will run from Aug. 5-21. The athletes go through a grueling training process ahead of the Games, and Tomarkin said he swims close to 50-60 kilometers (31-37 miles) per week with his coach.

Sanford explained that for him, training is not just about getting physically in shape. The Los Angeles native said, “My preparation is maintaining my body [and] making my body strong [but] mentally, you have to be very strong for the Olympic Games. Ninety thousand people will be in the stadium watching you run and millions of people around the world. It’s easy to lose focus and not be mentally sound.”

Sanford started running when he was 10. With his mother as his coach, he trained every day and said that from an early age, he knew running was something he wanted to do professionally when he got older.

He moved to Israel after marrying Israeli basketball player Danielle Dekel in 2008. He became eligible to compete for Israel in 2012, and represented the Jewish state that year at the European Athletics Championship, where he took home the bronze medal in the 400-meter finals. He made history by becoming the first Israeli to win a medal in a sprint event at the championship. He also competed in the 2012 Olympic Games and won the bronze medal for the 400-meter race at the 2014 European Athletics Championship.

The bronze medalist said he is proud to compete on behalf of his country.

“I’m not just representing myself and my family, I’m representing Israel. It’s a lot of pride, you know,” he said. “Thank you for all your support. Thank you for cheering for me and for encouraging me. I’m doing this for you guys. When I’m out there, just know that I’m thinking of all the people in Israel who are supporting me.”

Ivri, 26, added, “I’m proud to represent Israel every time I’m jumping. I want to thank everyone that is cheering every meet and every time. Keep doing it.”

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