Two bronzes for Israel in Paralympics and controversy

Moran Samuel of Israel won a bronze medal in the 1,000-meter women’s single sculls rowing final on Sept. 11 at the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, giving Israel its first medal at this year’s games.

The nation’s second medal came the next day, when Israeli shooter Doron Shaziri claimed bronze in the men’s R7-50m Rifle 3 Positions. Shaziri, 49, was a sharpshooter in the Israeli army’s Golani Brigade who, in 1987, lost a leg from the knee down when he trod on a landmine in southern Lebanon; he went on to set up a business adapting wheelchairs for injured soldiers.

Moran Samuel photo/wikipedia-detlev seyb

The bronze by Shaziri (who had won four silver and three bronze medals in earlier Paralympic Games) boosted Israel’s total to 373 medals in 14 Paralympic Games. A bushel of them belong to Zipora Rubin-Rosenbaum, who won 21 medals in mostly shot put and javelin (but also pentathlon, swimming and table tennis) in Paralympics between 1964 and 1988.

The games, featuring 4,300 Paralympians from around the world, continue through Sunday, Sept. 18. They are occurring three weeks after South America’s first Olympic Games.

One story coming out of the games this week was the International Paralympian Committee saying it will open an investigation into Algeria not being present to play Israel in women’s goalball, a sport for the visually impaired involving balls with bells.

The Algerian national team missed its Sept. 10 game against Israel, as well as a Sept. 9 game against the United States, under the pretext that it missed its flight to Rio on Sept. 5.

However, the Algerian team’s excuse did not initially satisfy the IPC, according to spokesman Craig Spence. “If you miss a connection flight, you can usually get another one within 24 hours,” he said. “I think even if they took a boat from Poland to Brazil they could have made it to the game on time. We have opened an investigation and will try to get a logical explanation.”

Doron Shaziri photo/jta/getty images/atsushi tomura

In the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, Iran refused to play against Israel, which resulted in a suspension of all activities for six years.

As for winning Israel’s first medal in these games, Samuel, 34, was very excited. “An Olympic medal is very sweet,” she told Ynet news in Israel. “For everyone at home, I wanted to hear the Israeli national anthem on the podium. I gave it all that I had. I knew that I didn’t finish first, and it broke my heart a bit, but I’m happy to have captured a medal.”

In the early 2000s, Samuel was a member of Israel’s national basketball team, but at age 24, she suffered a rare spinal stroke and became partially paralyzed in her lower body. However, she continued to play basketball (on the national wheelchair team) and eventually tried rowing, after much persuasion by her life partner, and now wife, Limor Goldberg.

Samuel finished fifth in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London and won a gold medal at the 2015 World Rowing Cup in Italy.

“I would like to congratulate the Israeli athletes at the Paralympics,” she said. “They represent the Israeli spirit at its best.”

Israel television has been broadcasting live when Israeli athletes are participating in the Paralympics, and there also has been a daily half-hour summary show.

In the Summer Olympics last month in Rio, Israeli judokas Yarden Gerbi and Or Sasson both won bronze medals. The medals brought Israel’s all-time total to nine, five of them in judo. Gerbi and Sasson have become instant national heroes. — jta


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