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Arab-Israeli swimmer becomes first athlete in 48 years to represent Israel at Olympics

Adam Maraana (Photo: Israel Swimming Association)

Twenty-year-old swimming talent, Adam Maraana, qualified to compete in the 100-meter backstroke at the upcoming Summer Olympics in Paris.

The Arab-Israeli swimmer, who trains at Israel's Wingate Institute near Netanya, surpassed the qualifying standard of 53.74 seconds by clocking at 53.60 seconds on Thursday.

“I surprised myself. I’m very happy,” Maraana said after his successful qualification. Despite his young age, he is no stranger to success. In 2023, he won the bronze medal in the European Under-23 Championship in the Irish capital of Dublin in the 50-meter backstroke category. In addition, he also secured a respectable fifth place in the 100-meter backstroke.

Maraana, the son of a Muslim Arab father and Russian mother is notably the first Arab Israeli athlete to qualify for the prestigious sports competition since the Montreal Olympics in 1976.

In addition, Maraana is one of just three Arab-Israeli athletes to represent Israel at the Olympics. The Arab-Israeli weightlifter Eduard Meron represented Israel at the Olympics in Rome in 1960. In 1976, Arab-Israeli footballer Rifaat Turk represented the Jewish state at the Olympics in Montreal.

Maraana lives in the northern Israeli coastal city of Haifa, which is known for its largely peaceful coexistence between the Arab minority and the Jewish majority.

Israeli swimmers have achieved remarkable results in international competitions in recent years.

In December 2021, Anastasia Gorbenko made history by becoming the first Israeli swimmer to win two gold medals in the World Championship in Dubai. She won the gold medal in the women’s 50-meter breaststroke by finishing the race in just 29.34 seconds and broke her own national record.

In February, Gorbenko took second place in the women's 400-meter individual medley at the Doha World Championships in Qatar. Her achievement was even more impressive given the boos she endured from some spectators.

“I’ve been here a week, I heard all these noises but I’m with earplugs. I’m in my zone. I’m here to do what I love to do, which is sports, Gorbenko told media representatives.“I’m here to represent my country…And I’m doing this with the Israeli flag and I’m proud of that. And whoever doesn’t like it, it’s just not my problem.”

In August 2021, Arab-Israeli swimmer Iyad Shalabi won a Paralympic gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke. Shalabi was born deaf and then at the age of 13 became paralyzed in his lower body after an accident. Last August, Paralympic swimmer Ami Dadaon took home his second gold medal in the mixed 150-meter race at a world championship swimming competition in Great Britain.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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