Israel at the Olympics – Saturday roundup
Exceptional day in Beijing for Israel's swim team as Be'eri, Nevo shatter national records, meanwhile Iran withdraws swimmer minutes before heat to avoid racing Israeli. Judoka Gal Yekutiel comes within grasping reach of bronze, defeating Mongolian former medalist only to lose to Holland's Houkes
Israeli swimmer Tom Be'eri set a new Israeli record on Saturday in Beijing with a 1.02:42m time in the 100m breaststroke category. Be'eri finished fourth overall.
Missing from Be'eri's heat was Iranian adversary Mohammad Alirezaei, whose lane was left orphaned when Tehran pulled him from the race scant minutes before it began. The semi-official Iranian news agency Mehr said Alirezaei's had been taken ill.
The Iranian National Olympic Committee (INOC) had said that as there was "no face-to-face situation" in swimming there would be no problem in attending the competition.
"Alirezaei swims in lane one and the representative of the Zionist regime (Israel) in lane seven, so they will not face each other," INOC secretary Ali Kafashian told ISNA news agency prior to the race.
Gal Nevo (Photo: Yossi Rott)
Meanwhile Gal Nevo shattered the Israeli record for 200 meters Individual Medley on Saturday with a time of 4.14:03 minutes. He finished 11th overall and improved his personal record by six seconds.
Fellow swimmer Anya Gostomelsky finished 36th in the women's 100m butterfly at 59.50 seconds, also improving her personal best.
Yekutiel: Disappointed, but proud
Israel's 60kg Judoka Gal Yekutial gave a spectacular fight on Saturday, but failed to win the coveted bronze, reaching 5th overall in his weight group. As in other major tournaments in recent years, the Jerusalem native managed to get far – but not far enough.
Yekutiel lost to the Netherlands' Ruben Houkes after landing an impressive victory against Mongolia's former bronze medalist, Khashbaatar Tsagaanbaatar, Russia's Ruslan Kishmakhov and Georgia's Nestor Khergiani. Georgia announced on Saturday that it may decide to pull out of the Games following the ongoing deadly clashes in South Ossetia.
Yekutiel - Will we see him in London? (Photo: Reuters)
"It hasn't been an easy day, very long and very difficult, with triumphs over excellent adversaries, and I almost won a medal. It's a difficult feeling, and it's a shame that it didn't end as I wanted it to. I couldn't do what was required in the last match. Now I must move forward, improve."
Asked if he plans to compete at the London Games in 2012, the 26-year-old athlete simply replied – "we'll see."
Two more Israeli judokas will compete over the coming days, Athens 2004 bronze medalist Arik Ze'evi, and the young Alice Schlesinger, who will try to gain as much experience in Beijing ahead of 2012.
Also on Saturday, Gymnast Alex Shtilov advanced to men's artistic floor exercises finals.
Sunday will see Israeli tennis stars launching their bid for Beijing gold – with Shahar Peer competing in both the singles and doubles categories, the latter with partner Tzipi Obziler, and Yoni Erlich and Andy Ram competing in the men's doubles.