Israeli Paralympians come home with 9 medals, new records

Final tally for the Tokyo Games is six gold medals, two silvers and a bronze – eight in swimming and one in rowing.

By Abigail Klein Leichman, Israel21c

Israel’s Paralympic team earned six gold medals, two silvers and one bronze from the Tokyo Paralympics that ended September 5. Eight of those nine medals were won in swimming.

In the process, the Israelis set some new records in this Olympic competition for people with physical disabilities.

Mark Malyar, 21, earned a gold medal in the men’s 200-meter individual medley, a gold in the men’s 400m freestyle and a bronze in the men’s 100m backstroke. He set new records for his disability category in the 200m and 400m events.

Ami Dadaon, 20, won a gold medal in the 200m freestyle, a gold in the men’s 50m freestyle and a silver in the 150m individual medley. He set records in the 200m and 50m events in his disability category.

Iyad Shalabi, 34, became the first Arab-Israeli to win a medal in the Olympics or Paralympics for Israel. He won a gold in the men’s 50m backstroke and a gold in the men’s 100m backstroke.

All three of these swimming medalists train at Ilan Rehabilitation and Sports Center in Haifa under coach Yaacov Beininson.

The ninth medal for Team Israel was a silver earned by Moran Samuel, 39, in the women’s single 2,000-meter event. She trains with coach Paula Grizetti at the Daniel Rowing Center in Tel Aviv.

Israel’s 33-member Paralympics team (15 men, 18 women) competed in 11 sports: athletics, badminton, boccie, goalball, paracanoeing, power lifting, rowing, shooting, swimming, table tennis and wheelchair tennis.

According to the International Paralympic Committee, 10 types of impairments make an athlete eligible: impaired muscle power, impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment, and intellectual impairment.

Classification systems differ by sport. Some Paralympic sports are designed for athletes with one eligible impairment type. Goalball, for example, is only for athletes with a vision impairment. Other sports, such as athletics and swimming, are open to athletes with any of the 10 eligible impairments.

Israel has participated in the Paralympic Games since the first competition in 1960. The first delegation won two silver medals and two bronze medals, in swimming, table tennis and wheelchair basketball.

Israeli Paralympic athletes have earned 129 gold, 125 silver and 130 bronze medals in the history of the Games, which traditionally are held two weeks after the Olympic Games at the same venue.

In the 2016 Rio Paralympics, the tally was three bronze medals, won by Moran Samuel in rowing, Doron Shaziri in shooting and Inbal Pezaro in swimming.