Yulia Karra
July 4

Israel will be among 206 countries competing in the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, set to take place between July 26 and August 11 in the French capital of Paris. 

The Jewish state’s delegation currently totals 75 athletes. That number could grow with more qualifying Olympic trials scheduled in the upcoming weeks. 

“You have to appreciate how difficult it is for anyone to make it to the Olympics, but especially for Israel,” says David Wiseman, cofounder of Follow Team Israel, a Facebook page devoted to sharing stories of Israeli sports achievements. 

Photo courtesy of David Wiseman
Photo courtesy of David Wiseman

That is because Israeli athletes have to compete with their counterparts in Europe, rather than Asia, in order to qualify, similar to how Israel competes as part of Europe on the international soccer stage.

“The majority of the world’s best athletes are in Europe, so the competition is extreme,” Wiseman tells ISRAEL21c. 

There is no doubt that the Israeli athletes who make it to the Olympics are some of the best in the world. ISRAEL21c has compiled a list of the Israeli athletes you should keep an eye on during the upcoming Games:

1. Artem Dolgopyat

10 Israeli athletes to watch at the 2024 Paris Olympics 
Artem Dolgopyat after his gold medal performance in floor exercise at the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: screenshot

This Ukraine-born Israeli gymnast stunned the world by besting the highly favored Russian competitor at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, taking gold in floor exercise. It was Israel’s first-ever gold medal in gymnastics.

Dolgopyat, 26, is the reigning 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics champion and 2022 European Artistic Gymnastics champion in floor exercise. 

Given his accomplishments, he is definitely the favorite to take a medal home from Paris. 

2. Daria Atamanov

The 18-year-old individual rhythmic gymnast is essentially replacing Linoy Ashram, who retired in 2022, on the Olympic team. 

Ashram memorably won gold in the women’s rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, beating the qualifying-round favorite, Dina Averina of Russia.  

Atamanov, 18, is the 2022 European All-Around Champion, and the 2023 World Championship All-Around bronze medalist.

3. Inbar Lanir

The 24-year-old judoka is the reigning world champion. She won gold in the 2023 World Judo Championships in the women’s under-79kg event. 

Lanir also won gold at the 2023 World Masters, and 2023 Ulaanbaatar Grand Slam. The European Judo Union named Lanir as the 2023 European Athlete of the Year.

“Judo is sudden death from the first round; your whole Olympics could be over in four seconds,” says Wiseman, adding that Lanir is nevertheless one of Israel’s biggest medal hopes in Paris.  

4. Raz Hershko

10 Israeli athletes to watch at the 2024 Paris Olympics 
Raz Hershko celebrating her win at the Tel Aviv Grand Slam 2023. Photo © Tamara Kulumbegashvili/IJF

Hershko, 25, was part of the Israeli national judo team that won a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

In April, Hershko won her first gold medal in the 2023 European Judo Championships in the women’s over-78kg weight category. 

Hershko dedicated the victory to Yonatan Goutin, who was a member of the Israeli national judo team. Goutin, 20, was killed on October 7 while fighting terrorists in Kibbutz Be’eri as part of a combat unit within the IDF. 

5. The men’s soccer team

10 Israeli athletes to watch at the 2024 Paris Olympics 
Israeli players celebrating their advancement to the semifinals at the 2023 UEFA European Under-21 Championship. Photo by Tamara Kulumbegashvili/UEFA

Ending a five-decade absence from the Olympics, the Israeli men’s soccer team qualified for the 2024 Games last summer after advancing to the semifinals of the 2023 UEFA European Under-21 Championship. 

In Paris, to have a shot at winning a medal, the Israelis first will have to make it out of their qualifying group, which also includes Paraguay, Japan and Mali. Two teams from each group go through to the knockout rounds. While the countries in Israel’s group are nothing to sniff at, they are not necessarily the strongest competitors. 

“If they can make it out of their group, who knows what will happen,” comments Wiseman. 

6. Avishag Semberg

The 22-year-old taekwondo athlete won bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the women’s 49kg event. She is the youngest Israeli athlete ever to win an Olympic medal. 

“She had the unfortunate circumstance [in Tokyo] to be drawn against a top-seeded competitor that lost her a chance at a gold medal,” says Wiseman, adding that with a little luck Semberg could wrangle the top spot on the pedestal in Paris.

Semberg won gold at the 2024 European Taekwondo Qualification Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria in March. 

7. Sharon Kantor

Israel’s Sharon Kantor at the 2024 iQFOiL Worlds in Lanzarote’s Marina Rubicón, February 2. Photo © Sailing Energy / iQfoil Class
Israel’s Sharon Kantor at the 2024 iQFOiL Worlds in Lanzarote’s Marina Rubicón, February 2. Photo © Sailing Energy / iQfoil Class

The 21-year-old sailor is the reigning world champion in windsurfing. Kantor won a gold medal at the iQFoil World Championships in February, guaranteeing herself a place in the Paris Olympics.

She took silver in the 2023 European Windsurfer Championships.

Israel’s first-ever gold medal in the Olympic Games was, in fact, in windsurfing. Gal Fridman won gold in the Athens 2004 Summer Olympics, having previously won bronze in the 1996 Games in Atlanta. 

8. Yuval Freilich

The 29-year-old fencer will represent Israel in Paris in men’s épée — the largest and heaviest of the three weapons used in the sport of fencing.

Freilich made history in late January after winning gold in the Doha Grand Prix in Qatar. It was the first time in history the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva” was played in the Arab country. 

In 2019, he won gold in individual épée at the 2019 European Fencing Championships, becoming the first Israeli fencer to do so. 

9. Matan Roditi

The 25-year-old marathon swimmer placed fourth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It was the closest Israel has ever come to winning an Olympic medal in swimming. 

Roditi has set national records in the 800-meter freestyle, the 1500-meter freestyle and the 10-kilometer marathon.

The men’s 10-kilometer marathon swim is the discipline in which Roditi will represent Israel in Paris on August 9. 

10. Maru Teferi 

The 31-year-old marathon and half-marathon runner finished 13th out of 106 at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, clinching the best-ever finish for an Israeli marathoner at the Games. 

The Ethiopia-born athlete won a silver medal in marathon at the 2023 World Athletics Championships — Israel’s best placement ever at the WAC. He also won silver at the 2022 European Athletics Championships in the individual marathon event. 

His most recent achievement is sixth place at the 2023 New York City Marathon. Following his impressive finish, Teferi said his main motivation is being able to “run for the Israeli flag; it’s a responsibility for me.”

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