Swimmers Yaakov Toumarkin and Andrea Murez became the first Israelis to qualify for the Games fifteen months ago and are two of six swimmers who will be competing at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium.
Toumarkin, 24, will be competing at his second Games, he finished seventh place in the 200m backstroke four years ago in London, and event he’s also competing in next month.
He warmed up for Rio by winning silver at May’s European Swimming Championships in London, and said: “That win gave me a lot of strength and confidence ahead of Rio and I’m very pleased.”
Murez, who made Aliyah from the States last year, booked her place in the 50m freestyle event in Brazil by swimming a new Israeli record time of 25.12. She said: “I thought I swam really well and was delighted to have qualified.”
Of the remaining four swimmers, Gal Nevo and Amit Ivry also both swam in London, though neither managed to qualify for the finals.
The most recent addition to the squad was Laetitia Beck, who will be taking part in the golf tournament, which returns to the Games after a 112-year absence. The Belgian-born 24-year-old has won the Israeli Open Golf Championship five times – the first when she was 12, and also won gold at both the 2009 and 2013 Maccabiah Games.
The only LPGA player from Israel, debuting on the tour in December 2014, she said: “I’m very excited to be participating in the Olympics. It has always been a dream of mine to represent Israel in the highest level. I feel honored to be given this opportunity and I’m sure it will be a week I will never forget. Thank you to all those who have supported me on and off the course, I’m forever grateful.”
Telling ESPN how she is proud of her heritage, Beck, who always wears a Star of David necklace and symbol on her golf bag, she said: “I’m not too religious, it’s more about the culture than religion. On the high holy days I’ll go to temple.”
She missed out on a college tournament back in 2001 due to it clashing with Yom Kippur, and keeps Kosher on tour.
Shooter Sergey Richter sealed his place at Rio by winning bronze at the European Games in Baku last month. The 26-year-old, who also competed in London, said: “I had a tough season because I kept coming up short in my quest to qualify for Rio. The pressure going into that tournament was unbearable and it took me a few seconds to regain my composure in the final once I realised I clinched my place in the Olympics.”
Enjoying a first ever appearance at the Games will be Israel’s top tennis player Dudi Sela. The 31—year-old will become Israel’s first man to take part in the singles tournament since 1992. Ranked 63 in the world, he suffered first round exits in both the singles and doubles tournaments at SW19, and is currently in the US, where he’s competing at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport. He said: “I’m excited and looking forward to it. I just hope I can get some confidence in Newport ahead of the start of Rio.” Also not worried about the Zika virus in Brazil, he added: “There’s no problem for me – maybe if I was a woman and pregnant.”