Israeli rhythmic gymnast Ira Risenson achieved a historical feat Thursday, and became the first Israeli athlete in the history of Israeli sports to make the Olympic finals in the rhythmic gymnastics individuals' category.
Risenson finished the preliminary round in eighth place, scoring 17.100 points for her hoop routine and 16.800 in her follow-up rope routine.
Teammate Neta Rivkin was able to score 16.500 points for her rope routine, and was ranked 11th after her hoop routine – just outside the finals' top-10.
The Israeli Rhythmic Gymnastics team, however, did not enjoy such luck: Katerina Pisetsky, Alona Dvornichenko, Raheli Vigdorchik, Veronika Vitenberg and Maria Savenkov, presented a beautifully synchronized rope routine, which took a wrong turn – literally – as one of the gymnasts dropped her apparatus, resulting in the team slipping to 11th place with 15.300 points.
The Israeli Rhythmic Gymnastics' team ranked sixth in the 2007 world championships
In the water, Israeli oarsman Michael Kolganov was ousted of the medal race Thursday, after coming in fourth in the Beijing Olympics' men's 500-meter canoeing race.
Kolganov ended the race with a time of 1:43:14m. The 500-meter race won him the bronze medal in the 2000 Sydney Games.
An Olympic surprise? Risenson in action (Photo: Reuters)
Earlier, Israeli Taekwondo fighter Bat-El Gaterer lost to Croatia's Martina Zubcic, 3:4 in her discipline's qualifications. Gaterer, who began the match favorably, was overpowered by her rival with just 30 seconds left to the bell. The loss will most likely end her Olympic bid.
In the Olympic Track and Field events, Israel's Alex Averbukh failed to make the pole vault qualification. With an 18.8-feet jump between him and the finals, Averbukh's game topped at 17.88 feet.
The two-time European title holder skipped the next jump – 18.20 feet – altogether, and struck out on the crucial 18.53 feet jump, ending his Olympic bid in the early stages of the competition.
"I wanted to get to the finals, but I knew it wasn't enough," a desponded Averbukh told reporters; adding he will no longer devote all his time to the sport. "I might continue jumping for another year, just for fun, but this was my last professional competition."
Averbukh, who ranked eighth in the 2004 Athens Olympics and 10th in the 2000 Sydney Games, said he will not be bidding for the 2012 London Olympics: "This is my last Olympics… It's going to be hard for me, not to be a professional athlete any more. I'm going to go into training next. I want to help athletes as much as I can."
Averbukh has been hailed as one of Israel's best athletes: He won three European championships (2000, 2002 and 2006) and is the winner of the 2001 European championships' silver medal and the 1999 European championships' bronze.
Miki Sagui and Sa'ar Haas contributed to this report