Israel nearly doubled the size of its Olympic delegation in 2020, in comparison with its 2016 Rio Olympics squad.
In July, Israel is planning to send an estimated 85 athletes in 18 sports to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Israeli teams and individual athletes have already qualified for baseball, rhythmic gymnastics, artistic gymnastics, equestrian show jumping, cycling, sailing, and surfing.
More athletes might qualify in track and field and swimming, according to Vered Buskila, three-time Olympic sailor and vice president of the Olympic Committee of Israel.
“This is a crazy number by Israeli standards,” Buskila told NoCamels during an interview. “That’s something that we never thought could happen in the near future.”
The first Israeli team to qualify for the summer Olympics was baseball, “a huge, amazing surprise,” said Buskila. This is the first time Israel’s baseball team has qualified for the Olympics and the first time an Israeli sports team qualified since the national soccer team participated in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Canada.
The baseball team consists of local talent and Jewish Americans, who became Israeli citizens as a requirement for the Olympics.
“This is the ultimate dream come true,” said Peter Kurz, Israel Association of Baseball president and general manager of Team Israel in a statement on the Israel Association of Baseball (IAB) website. “It was almost too impossible to imagine but with the astounding performances of a dedicated team that always believed in itself.”
Linoy Ashram, 20, will represent Israel in rhythmic gymnastics and is considered the country’s best shot at a medal. Ashram has dominated the sport since her first international competition when she was just 12 years-old.
Thus far, Israel’s beloved gymnast has won a bronze medal for the individual all-around competition at the 2017 World Championships, gold in the all-around competition at the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup series and first place at the 2018 Guadalajara World Cup as well as the Grand Prix Final. In the past two years, Ashram has won six silver and five bronze medals in World Championship events.
Israel will also be competing in surfing and equestrian sports for the first time in its Olympic history.
To date, Israel has won a total of nine Olympic medals since its first Summer Olympic Games participation in Helsinki in 1952.
“If we can have the best army in the world and the best high-tech in the world, why can’t we have the best athletes?” Buskila quipped.