While fighting off tears, Israel's Olympic gold medal-winning rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram announced on Monday her retirement from competitive sports.
Ashram’s dramatic announcement comes about eight months after she took part at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where she scooped the top prize in the rhythmic individual gymnastics all-around competition, thereby breaking Russia's long-standing hegemony in the sport.
"About eight months ago, I entered the competition hall in Tokyo to practice. My training session went really poorly,” said the 22-year-old athlete during an emotional press conference in Tel Aviv.
“I felt a tremor in my legs, I had a lot of thoughts going through my head. I kept telling myself ‘you’ve reached the moment you’ve been waiting for, the most important event of your career, the moment for which you have invested 15 years,"' she said.
“I was scared it would all go down the drain. I was awfully stressed. I understood that this was the last stop of my career,” said Ashram, adding she felt as though she carried the entire country's expectations of her shoulders.
“[I felt] I must not disappoint. I knew that the State of Israel was behind me and wanted my success, it greatly increased my motivation to succeed.”
The young athlete further talked about to her hoop routine, which was her first during the Tokyo Games, for which she was ranked last place at number 16.
“In my worst nightmares I did not dream that with the hoop, my strongest category, I would do so poorly… I then told myself that the worst of all was already behind me, there was place lower to sink because I was in the lowest possible place.
“It was a long day but I felt it was not over,” added Ashram, who eventually bagged third place on her first day at the Games.
“It was then that I realized that I could win a medal.”
Ashram continued by thanking her family, Ayelet Sussman - the head coach of artistic gymnastics in Israel and the one who accompanied Ashram in her career - as well as Israel “for all the warmth and love.”
Sussman, who flanked Ashram at the press conference, said: “How can a long and arduous journey be summed up in a few words? I am glad that in the end we can sum it up in a way that is adorned with unprecedented achievements.
“The road was no less significant than the thing itself. I am excited about the road ahead. Our path continues together in setting new goals and dreams for Israeli gymnastics,” said Sussman in reference to the Israel Gymnastics Federation’s announcement that Ashram would join the coaching staff of the Israeli national team alongside her long-time coach.
Culture and Sports Minister Hili Trooper, said: “Dear Linoy, Thank you very much for bringing pride to Israeli sports.
“You left a mark. Your achievements have touched the skies of world sports, but what is special about you is that you always stayed with your feet on the ground.”