‘I’m proud to compete for Israel’ – Swimmer booed in Qatar

“I’m doing this with the Israeli flag and I’m proud of that. And whoever doesn’t like it, it’s just not my problem,” says Israeli swimmer undeterred by hostile crowd.

By World Israel News Staff

An Israeli swimmer who won a silver medal at an international competition in Qatar was repeatedly booed by the audience, even during the awards ceremony.

Anastasia Gorbenko earned a silver medal in the women’s 400 meter at the Doha World Championships, losing out on the top spot to Freya Constance Colbert from the UK.

But during a post-race interview and while standing on the podium to receive her medal, Gorbenko was subject to intense booing and jeers from spectators.

Sheri later told reporters that she had grown used to the onlookers’ hostility during her time at the competition.

“I’ve been here a week. I heard all these noises, but I’m [wearing] earplugs. I’m in my zone. I’m here to do what I love to do, which is sports.”

“I’m here to represent my country,” Gorbenko, who was born and raised in Israel to Ukrainian immigrant parents, added.

“I’m doing this with the Israeli flag and I’m proud of that. And whoever doesn’t like it, it’s just not my problem.”

Gorbenko said she never considered skipping events like the medal ceremony due to spectator behavior, but acknowledged that the crowd’s behavior did affect her.

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“There was no way I was going to miss [the podium] just because some little kids are going to do whatever they want to,” she said.

“It’s just sport. I think sports and politics should be separated. But it does affect me emotionally, it’s been a long week for me. I expected myself to do better than I did.”

Gorbenko added that she won’t hesitate to swim in events held in Arab countries in the future, despite the hostility she faced in Qatar.

“At the end of the day, Israel is in the Middle East as well,” she said.

“I hope one day we’ll be able to make some peace with everyone.”