Avishag Semberg scores Israel’s first medal of Tokyo Olympics

The 19-year-old taekwondo fighter is now Israel’s youngest Olympic medalist.

By World Israel News Staff

Taekwando fighter Avishag Semberg won a bronze medal on Saturday, scoring Israel’s first medal of the Tokyo Olympics.

At 19-years-old, Semberg also became Israel’s youngest Olympic medalist.

She clinched her medal by defeating Turkey’s Rukiye Yildirim 27-22 in the women’s under-49 kg class.

“I have an Olympic medal at 19,” she said excitedly. “I worked so hard all the way. I withstood the pressure, I believed it would happen…I knew the draw was very difficult.”

Semberg noted that when she looked Yildirim in the eyes, “I said to myself, ‘So what if I’m the youngest?’ I will give everything I have. Hope this is not my last medal. It feels like a dream to me.”

Before facing Yildirim, Semberg defeated competitors from Puerto Rico and Vietnam, only losing to Thailand’s Panipak Wongpattanakit, who went on to take the gold.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and President Isaac Herzog each called Semberg to offer congratulations while other Israeli leaders tweeted their compliments.

The prime minister said he hoped Israeli youth would learn from Semberg’s perseverance.

“You have brought great pride and have warmed the hearts of the people, not just by your enormous achievement but in your manner of expression and in the message that you conveyed to Israeli youth. Persistent and constant effort is the story.

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“We all see the glow now surrounding the win, but the daily effort, the difficulty and the challenge are the real story,” Bennett said.

Semberg’s journey to medalist’s podium included one detour that other Israeli athletes have become familiar with. In 2018, Semberg was part of an Israeli delegation scheduled to compete at the 2018 World Junior Championships in Tunisia.

Tunisian authorities said they would permit the Israelis to compete as long as their uniforms featured no national symbols or insignia, nor would the Israeli anthem be played for any winners. Although the team agreed to those conditions, the Tunisians then denied visas to the Israelis, claiming the application forms weren’t received in time.

In other Olympic news, Israeli judoka Shira Rishony’s bid for a bronze medal in the women’s under-48 kg category fell short with a loss to Daria Bilodid of Ukraine on Saturday.