By Ilana Messika/TPS
Tel Aviv (TPS) – Approximately 200 Israelis from all over the country, most of them youngsters and students, welcomed the Israeli team home from the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio with signs and balloons at Ben-Gurion Airport.
“I felt we needed to show our appreciation and our respect to the members of the Paralympic delegation. They accomplished incredible things and succeeded in connecting the Israeli community together.” said Ouri Shechter, who organized the welcoming reception at Ben-Gurion, to Tazpit Press Service (TPS).
Thirty-three athletes in 11 sports participated in the games, winning three bronze medals, bringing the total number of medals won by Israel in the Paralympic Games to 383 since the country’s first delegation in 1960.
Rower Moran Samuel won bronze for the 100 meter women’s single sculls event on September 11. The next day, Doron Shaziri repeated the feat in the men’s 50 meter Rifle 3 Positions SH1, adding to continuing his record winning at least one medal minimum in each Paralympic game. Finally, on September 15, swimmer Inbal Pezaro finished third in the 200 meter individual medley.
In response to statements made on the inequitable coverage of the Paralympic games as opposed to the Rio Olympics, Leah Schneider, Spokesperson for the Israel Paralympic Committee, told TPS:
“Coverage was better this year than in the past, but it remains insufficient and definitely not on par with the broadcasting generated by the Olympics,” she said.
Schneider added that there has been a perceptible shift in Israeli society and media regarding Paralympic team members. “Whereas once people viewed us as disabled people with sport capabilities, today we are primarily seen as athletes,” she said.
Committee members also said that Israel lags behind other countries in terms of support and investment for sports, especially for disabled people.
“Israel is not a sports country.” said Schneider. “In other states, such as China or the United States, sport is considered a profession in itself. Here in Israel, members of the Paralympic delegation all have regular jobs. Their achievements are a credit to their capabilities, less than any institutional investment made by the government.
“We need mechanisms in order to identify disabled kids with potential for sports, to train them properly with specific courses and resources for adaptive sports. It takes regular people constant training over the course of six-to-eight years to acquire a professional level.
“[But mainly we need] awareness. We need plans and budgets on an institutional level. But for the moment, constructing a Paralympic team remains extremely difficult,” she concluded.TPS / Tazpit News Agency