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December 27, 2022 12:20 pm
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For Israeli Athletes, 2022 Was a Banner Year

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avatar by David Wiseman

Opinion

Barnabas Szollos, 23, represented Israel at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Photo: YouTube Screenshot.

You may not be aware, but 2022 was quite the year for Israeli athletes and sports teams.

With apologies to all those omitted, let me outline just some of Israel’s many incredibly sporting accomplishments.

Athletics — Marathon runner Lonah Chemtai Salpeter finished second at the New York Marathon, and third at the World Championships, while fellow marathon runner Maru Teferi won the Fukuoka Marathon. Israeli runner Blessing Afrifah also won the 200 meter race at the 2022 World Athletics U20 Championships, a title previously won by no less than Usain Bolt.

Badminton — Misha Zilberman won bronze at the European Championships.

Cycling — Israel-Premier Tech won two stages at the Tour de France.

Fencing — Israel won silver in the team epee at the European Championships.

Soccer — Israel finished second at the U19 European Championships, in the process qualifying for the 2023 U20 World Cup; Maccabi Haifa defeated the champions of Greece, Cyprus, and Croatia to become the first Israeli team to qualify for the Champions League in 7 years. In the Nations League, the Israeli team topped their group containing Iceland, Albania, and a banned Russia to win promotion to the A League.

Judo — Israel won bronze in the team event at the World Championships.

Karate — Ronen Gehtbarg won bronze at the European Championships.

Rugby — In just its second year of existence, Tel Aviv Heat narrowly lost the final of the Rugby Europe Super Cup to the defending champions, Black Lion of Georgia

Shooting — Tal Engler and Sergey Richter won gold at the European Championships.

Swimming — Anastasia Gorbenko defended her 200 meter individual medley title at the European Championships. A team of five Israeli women combined to swim the English Channel.

Taekwondo — Dana Azran won silver at the World Championship in Mexico. At the European Championships, Avishag Semberg won silver, while Nimrod Krivitzky and Rivka Bayech both won bronze.

Water Polo — The Israeli women’s team qualified for next year’s World Championships for the first time.

Winter Sports — Barnabás Szőllős’ sixth-place finish in the men’s combined downhill was the best ever result by an Israeli athlete at the Winter Olympics. Alpine skier Sheina Vaspi was the first Israeli athlete ever to compete at the Winter Paralympic Games.

Israel also hosted its first Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tournament since 1996, and this event was marked by the appearance of World Number 1, Novak Djokovic.

Additionally, Israel hosted the Rhythmic Gymnastics European Championships, the SuperEnduro World Championships, the World Beach Sambo Championships, the U17 European Football Championships, the U19 Women’s European Water Polo Championships, the U18 European Athletics Championships, the Junior Track Cycling World Championships, the World Team Chess Championship and the Judo World Masters.

So why is it that Israel doesn’t have a reputation for sporting prowess?

Maybe it’s because of the lens through which society and the media view sports. If you don’t win, people don’t pay attention — or they only care about the big sports such as basketball and soccer.

But for a country in the middle of the desert to even have Winter Olympians, let alone finish with seconds of a medal is nothing short of miraculous. The Israeli women’s water polo team first played at the European Championships in 2018, and now, in just five short years, has graduated to the World Championships.

Success does not come overnight. You have to crawl before you can walk, and it’s clear that Israel is making significant sporting strides every year.

Israelis and all Jews should be proud to see those athletes represent us with pride and distinction all over the world.

David Wiseman is the co-founder of Follow Team Israel, a page devoted to sharing the stories of Israeli and Jewish sport to the world. You can find them on Facebook and Instagram

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