Saturday, September 25, 2004

Israelis Win 7 Paralympic Medals

The Israeli Paralympic team has brought home seven medals, three of them gold, in what has been Israel's most successful Paralympic performance ever.
Israel's sailing team, made up of members Dror Cohen, Arnon Ephrati and Benny Vexler, has dominated the sonar division, coming in first place after finishing fourth in the in the seventh leg and first in the eighth leg of the nine-race competition. They won their final race today.

“We are very happy for ourselves and for Israel," said skipper Dror Cohen. "The flag of our country is being displayed now."

Israeli swimmer Keren Leibowitz won Israel's second gold medal Wednesday, coming in first place in the 100-meter backstroke race.

Leibowitz narrowly missed winning the gold in the 100-meter freestyle Monday, after which she lamented: "I don't feel like I won the silver - I feel like I lost the gold." Leibowitz had raced against American Jessica Long, who pulled ahead of Leibowitz at the very end of the race, beating her by 19/100 of a second. Two years ago, in the Sydney Paralympics, Leibowitz won three gold medals and broke three world-records.

This morning, in an interview with Army Radio, Leibowitz said she was glad to again represent the State of Israel in the position that suits it: "Number one," she said. Leibowitz was seen smiling, with tears streaming down her face, at the singing of Hatikva, Israel's national anthem.

Israeli Itzhak Mamistalov also won a gold medal, coming in first in the men's 100-meter freestyle Tuesday and setting a new Paralympic record. Mamistalov is paralyzed in three limbs, swimming using only his right arm. He also took home a silver medal on Wednesday in the 200-meter freestyle.

Other Israeli winners include Inbal Pezaro, who took the bronze in the women's 200-meter freestyle and Doron Shaziri, who won a bronze medal in the men's rifle contest. Nimrod Tzabiran placed sixth in the men's 100-meter freestyle.

With seven medals total, Israel's Paralympic team surpassed its record of five medals in Sydney.

The Paralympic Games are a biennial event for elite athletes with any disability. They follow the Olympic Games every two years, with both summer and winter games. The Paralympics 2004 has more than 4,000 disabled athletes from 136 countries competing for 525 gold medals in 19 sports.