The Tokyo Olympics are considered the most successful in the history of Israeli sports, with four medals won by Israeli athletes, including two gold medals in gymnastics: Artium Dolgofiat in instrumental gymnastics and Linoy Ashram in artistic gymnastics.
Until these Olympics, the attention of the Israeli public was given to the sailing and judo disciplines, the two areas in which Israel has achieved Olympic medals in the past. But now there is no doubt that the big winner of the Olympics is the gymnastics industry, for its proud achievements.
There was no awareness
“This is a holiday for the industry,” says the chairman of the Kinneret Gymnastics Association, Zedek. Both have proven the importance of the industry. “Two gold medals are a dream come true, and for us the sky is the limit.”
Zedaf notes that the significant leap in the field occurred with the merger of the two strongest and leading gymnastics associations in Israel – “Hapoel” and “Maccabi” three years ago. “Instead of eating each other out, quarreling over budgets and putting our feet on each other’s wheels, the two associations shook hands and set out on a common path. It was this union and turning them into one piece that propelled this industry to heights,” she says.
The buds of the Israeli gymnastics industry were seen in 1958, when the athlete Rally Ben Yehuda became the first winner of the Israeli Instrumental Gymnastics Championship, and was the first to represent the country in this industry at the Rome Olympics in 1960. It took several more years for artistic gymnastics. The world in the Netherlands In 1973, the Israeli delegations Reuven Halperin and Betty Masnikov reached 54th and 56th places respectively.
“After the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the Sports Authority, the Sports Association and the Olympic Committee decided that it was not enough for Israel to compete in the Olympics. It should strive for medals and thus show its place alongside other nations,” says Shulamit Goldstein , Israeli champion (three times) and international judge on behalf of Israel in artistic gymnastics at the Atlanta Olympics (1996).
“In a rare step of cooperation, the Israeli sports authorities, accustomed to quarreling with each other, decided to establish a professional arm for the Olympic Committee – the Achievement Sports Unit. .
After Mampert gave his recommendations, a committee was set up on behalf of the professional arm for the Olympic Committee, which discussed allocating a budget for the various sports, and it decided to cultivate the gymnastics industry. “Development in the industry did not come in one day,” says Goldstein. “The competitors have started to achieve impressive results in world championships and now we have reached the peak in the current Olympics.”
In the 2000s, the Olympic Committee’s attention paid off: in 2009, athlete Alex Shtilov won a bronze medal at the European Instrumental Gymnastics Championships and became the first Israeli gymnast to take the podium at an important international championship. A year earlier, the Israeli artistic gymnastics team finished the Beijing Olympics in sixth place in a group exercise and two of the gymnasts Ira Risenzon (ninth place) and Neta Rivkin (14th place) were marked as promises for the future. In 2011, Rivkin won her first bronze medal at the World Championships in France.
“As soon as Neta brought the first medal in Europe, the country began to believe even more in the industry and allocate more budgets to it,” says Yelena Rinon, former Soviet champion in artistic gymnastics and former director of the Maccabi Tel Aviv Association for artistic gymnastics. “When I came to Israel from the Soviet Union 30 years ago, people did not know what artistic gymnastics was. The main sports that caught my attention were football and basketball. I was invited to Israel for several performances to introduce Israelis to this sport in depth and decided to stay here and start the journey. Mine as a coach and later as a coach. “
Indeed, a large part of the credit for the tremendous achievements that Israel has achieved in the field must be credited to the coaches and professional coaches, who have brought new standards to the industry and operate according to international standards. “The Olympic Committee allows retired Olympic athletes to engage in post-retirement training,” Goldstein says. “It also helps promote the field.”
Lia Polonsky, an artistic gymnastics coach and owner of a gymnastics club in central Tel Aviv, says: “Until about a decade ago, there was no awareness of the industry, while today it is taken very seriously and given gymnasts the support they need. “
“All Olympic artistic gymnasts work with a non-gymnastics choreographer and ballet teacher,” says Jackie Vishnia, an honorary member of the European Gymnastics Association and in charge of external relations. “This combination, along with the physiological data that coaches develop and pay attention to – leads to results.”
Today there are more than 60 associations for artistic gymnastics in the country and thousands of girls make their way to classes every week, some of them will go on to professional teams and who knows, maybe one of them will be the next Linoy Ashram. “Beyond the athletic achievements, the girls get a lot from participating in the gymnastics industry,” says Rinon. “The field contributes a lot to the girls in terms of maintaining a proper body structure, awareness of nutrition, and strengthening self-confidence. What’s more, it is a very beautiful sport, with the girls dressed in stunning clothes, with gathered and radiant hair.”
But while artistic gymnastics is being revitalized, there is room for improvement in gymnastics, if the Israeli Olympic Committee is interested in making the country a leader in the field. “There are five boys’ associations and ten white associations in instrumental gymnastics, compared to more than 60 associations in artistic gymnastics. These are huge differences,” says Vishnia.
While in the world of artistic gymnastics and instrumental gymnastics are two different fields, in Israel they have quite a few launch points. “These two industries are very close and their development was also common,” says Goldstein. “The trainees go to the same competitions, they have the same formations. The core is strong. Although the apparatus gymnastics industry produces less achievements than artistic gymnastics, this Olympics and Artium’s gold medal are proof that we are on the right track.”
“A more correct infrastructure is needed to develop the field,” says Vishnia. “The state supports. Once they realized there was a chance for an Olympic medal, a lot of resources were invested. Here, a year and a half ago, millions of shekels were invested in setting up a special tent at Wingate to prepare the Olympic gymnasts and renovate the gym. This investment is very critical.” “
Goldstein adds that the job is not yet complete and there is still room for improvement: “We need to give coaches who know what to do to work, give them the right budget. The gymnastics association did a good job and supported girls and boys properly. These talents must not be spoiled and spared. Linoy and Artium and Nicole “Zelikman, who achieved an amazing result in seventh place, is proof that we need to invest even more in cultivating and developing the industry.”
An unusual achievement
And it is impossible to talk about the achievements in the gymnastics industry without mentioning the fighting spirit and determination of the athletes themselves and their desire to excel. “What’s special about Linoy is that she’s a winemaker,” Goldstein says. “It’s one thing to excel in training and something else to bring the wineries to the competition as well. It’s a trait that every athlete does not have, and above all every athlete would want to have. Linoy is a fighter and the combination with the amazing team that surrounds her has led to a medal.”
In an industry dominated by Eastern Europeans, in Israel and around the world, Ashram was born to parents of Greek and Yemeni descent and became the first non-Russian woman to win a gold medal in artistic gymnastics (except at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, when the Russians did not compete).
“It is simply an unusual achievement to break Russian hegemony,” Vishnia declares. “In all the competitions around the world, even in European and American teams, the top trainees have Russian names. Until today it was known all over the world that the gymnastics industry is developed mainly among Russians or Ukrainians, because they have a different level and it is rooted in education from a very young age, but slowly This education also reaches our younger generation. “
“As a native of the country of Russian descent, when I started training there was a majority of people from the Soviet Union in the industry, but today it’s really not like that,” says Polonsky. “Today it can be estimated that only half of the trainees are of Russian descent. There is something in the physiology of the body of Soviet women that makes them suitable to star in the field, they are also very flexible. Linoy has other things, she is very athletic and agile for example. A very high difficulty, which helped her qualify for first place. ”