Israel’s Paralympic Team Soars to New Heights, Capturing its Seventh Medal
Gold Medal in Wheelchair Tennis eclipses previous medal count from Beijing
The 2012 London Paralympic Games kicked off on August 29th, and the 11-day event, which concludes today, has showcased the inspirational efforts of nearly 4,300 athletes from 166 countries in 20 different events.
One of those countries – Israel - first appeared at the Paralympic Summer Games in Rome, Italy in 1960. Since then Israel has accumulated 336 Paralympic medals (113 of them gold) – placing Israel’s medal count 13th overall in the history of the Games.
But their medal haul rose considerably thanks to their efforts in London over the past week-and-a-half.
Despite being anchored to wheelchairs and other physical constraints, Israel’s entry into this year’s Paralympic team in London, England, has soared to new heights, making Israelis – and Jews across the globe – excited and proud.
When men’s wheelchair tennis player Noam Gershoni captured gold in the singles tournament on Saturday by defeating first-ranked David Wagner of the United States 6:3, 6:1, it marked the seventh medal won by the Israelis, eclipsing their previous high in medals of six, which they achieved in Beijing four years ago when they took home five silvers and one bronze.
After Saturday’s tennis match, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the former IDF pilot to pass on his mazel tovs, and to tell the 29-year-old that he was “very excited” by his victory. “You symbolize the triumph of the human spirit over the difficulties created by the reality we live in,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu.
But that wasn’t the only phone call Gershoni received after taking home the gold.
“You gave the country and the nation an exciting surprise,” Israel’s President Shimon Peres told him. “You’ve proved that you’re just as good on the court as you are in the skies – talented from Apache to tennis.”
Gershoni and doubles partner Shraga Weinberg had already won a bronze medal in men's doubles.
Many of the athletes in the Israeli Paralympic delegation were injured during their service in the IDF.
Gershoni learned to play in a wheelchair at Tel Aviv’s Beit Halochem (combat center) after a helicopter crash during the Second Lebanon War left him severely wounded. He began playing tennis at the facility as part of his rehabilitation. Currently ranked third in the quad category, he won the men’s singles and doubles titles at the 2012 GIO Sydney International Wheelchair Tennis Open.
Besides Gershoni’s gold in tennis, swimmers Inbal Perzaro and Itzchak Mamistvalov won a total of three bronze medals, while hand cyclist Kobi Leon won another, and shooter Doron Sharizi took one as well.
Leon was a member of the Egoz Reconnaissance Unit, an elite IDF unit 16 years ago when his squad was hit by an explosive device in Lebanon. Two soldiers in his unit were killed in the attack, and he was left a paraplegic.
This was Leon’s first Paralympic appearance, and, no doubt, as it was for all of us who were fortunate enough to who have watched – in awe – the dedication, courage and skills of these remarkable men and women, it was an experience he will never forget.
On behalf of Shalom Life, thank you, and kol hakavod, to the entire 2012 Israeli Paralympic delegation:
Cycling: Kobi Leon, Nati Gruberg, Pascal Berkowitz
Rowing: Moran Samuel, Reuven Magnagi, Olga Sokolov
Wheelchair tennis: Shraga Weinberg, Boaz Kramer, Noam Gershony
Table tennis: Shai Saida, Liran Geva
Marathon: Gadi Yarkoni
Shooting: Doron Shaziri
Equestrian: Jonathan Dressler
Sailing: Dror Cohen, Arnon Efrati, Benny Wexler, Shimon Ben-Yaacov, Hagar Zehavi
Swimming: Itzhak Mamistvalov, Inbal Pizaro, Iyad Shalabi, Inbal Ganpol-Schwartz, Erel Halevi, Yoav Valinsky