Forty Special Olympians, 62 medals — an impressive showing for the team representing Israel at the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles, July 25 to August 2.

Due to touch down tonight at Ben-Gurion International Airport, the Israeli delegation is bringing home 25 gold, 18 silver and 19 bronze medals.

The standout sports for Israelis were basketball (Shimon Pelech, Idan Grossfeld, Eliahu Levi, Alec Sommer, Nitzan Schmeiss, Koby Hamama, Dean Ohayon, Nir Ben Varon, Yossi Abutbul, Ben Shapira); kayaking (Dalit Kamart, Noa Shoval, Dor Levitt, Eyal Geva); cycling (Idan Shalom, Tal Rosenfeld, Dean Malachi, Alon Dolev, Maya Hertz, Noa Atali); tennis (Ofir Avishai, Nadav Tzarfati); bowling (Eden Caspi, Sammy Ohayon, Lynn Kornhauser, Segal Amiti); swimming (Mati Oren, Tamir Rosenzweig, Idan Erlich, Yuval Tamir, Sivan Tzur); boccie (Ziv Rivian, Bat-El Motzpi); and overall athletics (Iti Solomon, Ron Segal, Shlomi Gibali, Yedid Nessimov, Adi Madmon, Almog Taib).

Special Olympics Israel, coming home with 62 medals. Photo via Facebook
Special Olympics Israel, coming home with 62 medals. Photo via Facebook

With 6,500 athletes and 2,000 coaches representing 165 countries, the 2015 Special Olympics World Games – where athletes with intellectual disabilities compete in 32 Olympic-type sports according to level of prowess — was the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world this year.

Israeli basketball medalist Alec Sommer was one of seven athletes chosen to carry the Special Olympic torch during the last leg of the opening ceremony, handed off from an Iranian participant.

The Israeli team was able to participate only on the condition that the families raise one-third of the nearly NIS 1 million needed to send athletes and support staff to Los Angeles, and this was accomplished in part thanks to a widely shared ISRAEL21c article about open-water swimmer Mati Oren, who won a gold and a bronze in Los Angeles.

Mati’s mother, Vicki, noted that the event was not only a showcase for athletic talent but also for an uncommon spirit of international camaraderie. In addition to widely publicized photos of Israeli and Iranian athletes arm in arm, Vicki Oren sent ISRAEL21c this photo of herself with a Libyan coach she befriended.

Vicki Oren with Libyan coach. Photo: courtesy
Vicki Oren with Libyan coach. Photo: courtesy

“What our athletes could teach the world leaders about respect, dignity, courage, pride and yes, peace!” she exclaims. “If they can do it, we can do it!”