Artistic gymnast Artem Dolgopyat said he was "in heaven" after becoming Israel’s second-ever Olympic gold medalist on Sunday with his winning men's floor exercise routine, dedicating his performance to the people of Israel.
"I have no words, I am in heaven. Thank you to everyone for everything, including those who got up at 4am to watch me in the qualifying round,” said the 24-year-old athlete.
Dolgopyat's performance earned him 14.933 points from the judges, putting him ahead of Spain’s Rayderley Miguel Zapata, who took silver, and China’s Xiao Ruoteng, who won the bronze.
"I was worried my routine would not be enough for a medal, but everyone else was so excited. I am very, very lucky to have had great coaches who helped me become who I am today, it's amazing,” Dolgopyat said.
“It’s hard to digest, it will take me some time. I have been waiting 18 years for this moment.”
Dolgopyat recalled the nerve-wracking moments before he took the floor.
“I didn't watch the three gymnasts who came before," he says. "I tried to concentrate and not think about anything, I just wanted to do [my routine]."
After his victory, Dolgopyat spoke with President Isaac Herzog, who congratulated the young gymnast on his historic win.
"We are all very excited and I congratulate you. We are all looking forward to seeing you in Jerusalem soon. You are a source of pride to many children who will surely follow in your footsteps,” said Herzog.
Dolgopyat told Herzog that he did it all "for the people of Israel" and expressed his happiness that "all of our nation watched me [during the final]."
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett also spoke with the gold medalist shortly after his win.
"You made history here," Bennett told Dolgopyat.
"We stopped the cabinet meeting in the middle to congratulate you for bringing us this great news," he said.
“On behalf of the government of Israel and on behalf of the citizens of Israel - we are all proud of you and look forward to your return to Israel for the celebrations,” said Bennett.