For the first time in history, a delegation of Israeli weightlifters is competing in the World Weightlifting Championships in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The event, which started on September 4 and will end on September 17, is also an Olympic qualifier for the 2024 Paris Games.
The Israeli team consists of four athletes: David Litvinov, Artur Mugurdumov, Nicole Rubanovich and Celia Gold. They are accompanied by their coach Oren Shai and the president of the Israel Weightlifting Federation, Avi Cohen.
The participation of the Israeli weightlifters in Saudi Arabia is a remarkable achievement for sports diplomacy, as the two countries do not have formal diplomatic relations and have been historically hostile to each other. However, in recent years, there have been signs of a thaw in their relations, especially after the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020, which normalized ties between Israel and several Arab states.
A challenging but rewarding experience
The Israeli weightlifters faced many challenges and obstacles to reach Riyadh and compete in the championships. They had to obtain special visas from the Saudi authorities, which took several months of negotiations and coordination. They also had to travel via Jordan, as there are no direct flights between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Despite these difficulties, the Israeli weightlifters expressed their excitement and gratitude for being able to participate in the event. They said they were treated well by the organizers and the local people, and they felt safe and comfortable in Riyadh. They also said they were proud to represent their country and to show their skills and talents to the world.
The Israeli weightlifters also received support and encouragement from their fellow competitors and officials from other countries. They said they made new friends and exchanged experiences with athletes from different backgrounds and cultures. They also said they hoped that their presence in Saudi Arabia would inspire more dialogue and cooperation between nations through sports.
A quest for Olympic glory
The main goal of the Israeli weightlifters in Riyadh is to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The World Weightlifting Championships is one of the most important events for earning points and ranking for the Olympic Games. The competition in Riyadh has brought together some 2,500 athletes from 197 countries, who are vying for medals and Olympic spots.
The Israeli weightlifters have performed well so far in the championships. David Litvinov won a bronze medal in the men’s 109 kg category, lifting a total of 391 kg. Artur Mugurdumov finished seventh in the men’s 102 kg category, lifting a total of 365 kg. Nicole Rubanovich placed ninth in the women’s 59 kg category, lifting a total of 191 kg. Celia Gold is yet to compete in the women’s 64 kg category, which will take place on September 13.
The Israeli weightlifters are optimistic about their chances of qualifying for the Paris Olympics. They said they trained hard and prepared well for the championships. They also said they were motivated by their historic participation in Saudi Arabia and by their desire to make their country proud.