Israel will have seven judokas at the Games – the joint-second highest number of athletes in any of the 16 sports they’re entering.
Ori Sasson, who will be fighting in the 100+kg event, claimed one of the best wins of his career in the final warm-up tournament for the Games, when he won silver at the 2016 World Judo Masters championships in Mexico.
The 25-year-old, who also claimed silver at last year’s European Games, said: “It was one of the most significant achievements of my career so far and of course, I’m always to represent this country every single time. I’m proud to be part of a team of such quality, and with my team, including coach and personal trainers, am looking forward to the Olympics.”
Golan Pollack (u66kg), who won bronze at last year’s World Championships, will be looking for a better showing than four years ago in London when he lost in the first round, while Sagi Muki (u73kg), for whom this will be his first Games, won Israel’s first gold medal at last year’s European Games.
On the female side, Israel have in Yarden Gerbi, a former world champion Yarden Gerbi and she’s aware of how fast a match can be decided, saying: “The competition in judo can end very fast, you can lose and win in one second, so it’s a very complicated day — but my main thing is to fight each moment on the mat and to be the best I can, to be strong-minded, and I believe in myself.”
The 27-year-old became the first Israeli to win gold at the World Championships three years ago in the u63kg category – the same one she’ll be competing in at Rio. She was also a bronze medallist at last year’s European Games, has won the Israeli championship five times and was a silver medalist in the 2009 Maccabiah Games. Shiri Rishony (u48kg), Gili Cohen (u52kg) and Linda Bolder (u70kg) complete the quartet of female fighters.
Shani Bloch and Shlomi Haimy will be Israel’s first cyclists at the Games since 1960. At 37 years of age, Bloch will be one of the eldest Israeli athletes in Brazil. Currently living in Scotland, the mother-of-three retired in 2004, but made her comeback two years ago. Surviving a high-speed crash at the Scottish Road Race Championship back in June to finish in second place, she insists age is no barrier, recently being quoted as saying: “After Rio we must look ahead to Tokyo 2020.”
Haimy will be taking part in the cross country event, having finished in 18th place at competition in last year’s European Games. Taking to the sport as a 12-year-old, he says: “Cross-country Olympic mountain biking has always been close to my heart. The physical and technical requirements, together with the connection of nature and the machine connects perfect for me.”
Anastasia Gloushkov and Evgenia Tetelbaum will be taking to the pool as a duet for the synchronised swimming event. Gloushkov definitely has experience on her side, with this being her fourth Olympiad, though Tetelbaum, who moved to Israel from Ukraine in 2009, will be taking part in her first Olympics.
The pair have been in Florida for their final preparations, with Tetelbaum saying: “It’s very exciting. It’s been my goal all my [sporting] life to be in the Olympic Games, I have a lot of emotions inside, but I have to keep them until I have my best performance.”
Sailing has provided Israel’s only Olympic gold medal – when Gal Fridman won the men’s sailboard event in Athens in 2004. Hoping to follow in his footsteps 12 years later are six sailors.
Shahar Zubari is the only athlete in this squad to have an Olympic medal to his name, having won bronze in the RS:X event in 2008. With further gold medal wins in RSX European Championships to his name, he will though be looking for an improvement on his 19th place finish in London four years ago. Dan Froyliche and Eyal Levin are taking part in the 470 event.
A trio of women sailors sees Gil Cohen & Nina Amir are representing Israel in the 470 event, the pair have only been together since December, while Maayan Davidovich, who’s been competing on the international stage since 1999 – including at Beijing in 2008 – takes part in the RS:X.