Rhythmic gymnast Neta Rivkin will hold Israel’s blue-and-white flag aloft at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, to be held August 5 to 21.

The Olympic delegation that will be led into the stadium by Rivkin is Israel’s largest one since the country’s first Olympic Games in 1952. The 47 qualifiers will compete in 17 sport categories, including Israel’s first Olympic competitors in golf, triathlon and mountain biking.

Rivkin, who finished seventh in her category at the 2012 London Games, is one of 11 repeat Olympic athletes from Israel who are hoping for a spot on the medalists’ podium.

She tells ISRAEL21c that she will focus on doing her personal best at Rio. “Now I’m in the Baku World Cup,” she texted from Azerbaijan on July 20.  She won a bronze medal in that contest.

Rhythmic gymnast Neta Rivkin will carry Israel flag in the Rio opening ceremony. Photo: courtesy
Rhythmic gymnast Neta Rivkin will carry Israel’s flag in the Rio opening ceremony. Photo: courtesy

Another Israeli hopeful is windsurfer Shahar Zubari, who won Israel’s most recent Olympic medal when he took a bronze home from Beijing in 2008.

“I think I have pretty high chances. I feel in good shape,” Zubari tells ISRAEL21c from Brazil, where he is training four or five hours a day. “But on the other hand, my competitors are all very strong, so any one of us can win a medal.”

Zubari, who will turn 30 on September 1, lives in Tel Aviv and trains all around the world.

ISRAEL21c caught up with Israeli artistic gymnast Alex Shatilov at a Russian training camp on July 20. Shatilov has won several medals at world and European championships in floor exercise and competed in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics.

“I was in two Games already and came close to the podium, and this time I hope to get there,” he says. “I think I have a good chance.” Shatilov trains four or five hours each day.

Alex Shatilov performing on the high bar during the Israel gymnastics championship in Jerusalem, April 6, 2016. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90
Alex Shatilov performing on the high bar during the Israel gymnastics championship in Jerusalem, April 6, 2016. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90

Freestyle wrestler Ilana Kratysh, winner of the World Qualification Tournament in Mongolia last April, is Israel’s first female Olympic wrestler. Laetitia Beck is the first Israeli Olympic golfer. Ron Darmon brings Israel into the triathlon category and Shlomi Haimy is the pioneer in mountain biking.

The 2016 delegation also includes 34 coaches and about 25 support staff.

In 16 Olympic Games, Israeli has won seven medals — in judo, sailing and canoeing. The only gold medalist was windsurfer Gal Fridman (Athens, 2004) and he also won a bronze medal in Atlanta in 1996.

Here are the Israeli athletes going to Rio next month, listed by sport. Repeat Olympians are in italics.

Athletics: Tesama Moogas, Maor Tiyouri (marathon), Donald Sanford (400-meter dash), Dmitry Kroytor (high jump), Hanna Knyazyeva-Minenko (triple jump), Lonah Chemtai Korlima, Ageze Guadie, Marhu Teferi

Badminton: Misha Zilberman (men’s singles)

Cycling: Shani Bloch Davidov (women’s road race), Shlomi Haimy (men’s cross country)

Golf: Laetitia Beck

Gymnastics: Alexander Shatilov (artistic), Neta Rivkin (rhythmic individual), Alona Koshevatskiy, Ekaterina Levina, Karina Lykhvar, Ida Mayrin, Yuval Filo (rhythmic team)

Judo: Golan Pollack, Sagi Muki, Ori Sasson, Shira Rishony, Gili Cohen, Yarden Gerbi, Linda Bolder

Sailing/Windsurfing: Shahar Zubari, Maayan Davidovich, Gil Cohen, Nina Amir, Dan Froyliche, Eyal Levin

Shooting: Sergey Richter

Swimming: Ziv Kalontorov (50m freestyle), Gal Nevo (200m individual medley, Yakov-Yan Toumarkin (backstroke, individual medley), Amit Ivry (100m breaststroke), Andrea Murez (50m and 100m freestyle), Zohar Shikler (50m freestyle), Anastasia Gloushkov and Yevgeniya Tetelbaum (synchronized), Keren Siebner (100m freestyle)

Taekwondo: Ron Atias

Tennis: Dudi Sela (men’s singles)

Triathlon: Ron Darmon

Weightlifting: Igor Olshanetskyi

Wrestling: Ilana Kratysh

Gloushkov, Ivry, Sanford and Zubari were among 14 outstanding Israeli athletes who posed nude for a Yedioth Ahronoth photo shoot last September.

Below is ISRAEL21c’s video interview of Ivry.

And you can also view a 360-degree movie about Israeli judoka Ori Sasson (in Hebrew).