Israeli Arab swimmer Iyad Shalabi on Wednesday won a gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Shalabi, 34, from the town of Shfaram in northern Israel, is deaf and mute from birth and paralyzed in the lower body from the age of 13. He is the first Israeli Arab to win a medal in an Olympic or Paralympic setting. He defeated six other contestants in the final and set a time of 2:28.04 minutes.
The 2020 Summer Paralympics is a major international multi-sport parasports event governed by the International Paralympic Committee. The Paralympics are currently taking place in Tokyo, Japan, from August 24 to September 5.
Iyad Shelby’s coach Yaakov Binenson choked on his tears when he told Reshet Bet radio: “I am very excited and happy that the gold medal went to him. With him, it was always the hardest way. This is his fourth Olympics. He was always in fourth place, but he kept going. He proved that if you keep knocking on the door, eventually it will open.”
Minister of Culture and Sports Hili Trooper congratulated the winner: “A tremendous achievement! Congratulations to our Israeli swimmer Iyad Shalabi who wins Israel’s first gold medal at the Paralympic Games. Iyad is an inspiring man, whose life is full of victories. And today another brilliant victory. Iyad was not frightened by the high expectations, aimed at the highest target, and filled us all with great pride. We are proud of you, Iyad Shalabi.”
The Israeli delegation to the Tokyo Paralympics includes 33 athletes who compete in 11 sports. A total of 162 delegations are participating in the games, including a delegation of refugees. This is the 16th time an Israeli delegation has participated in the Paralympics, where Israeli athletes have won 375 medals so far, including 123 gold, 123 silver, and 129 bronze.