In a surprising achievement, Barnabas Szollos became Israel’s top skier on Thursday at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Szollos finished sixth place overall in the men’s alpine combined, after an incredible second place in the slalom portion of the event and 11th in the downhill portion.
“It was a really good race, I had a lot of fun,” Szollos told Israel’s Sport 5 reporters. “To place sixth feels amazing and I’m really happy. Big thanks to everyone, all the Israelis who watched me, everyone who woke up in the morning to see my race and support me... Thanks to my family… It’s an honor to be here, to represent Israel, and I’m really, really happy.”
Hungarian-born Szollos is representing Israel in his Olympic debut. Ahead of the Games, the head of the Israeli delegation to Beijing, Yaniv Ashkenazi, said it would be “a very impressive achievement” if Szollos finished in the top half.
The alpine combined was Szollos’ third Olympic event, after he finished 30th overall in both the men’s downhill and Super-G. On Sunday he is slated to compete in the giant slalom, and on Wednesday in the slalom.
"Szollos' achievement is an extraordinary achievement in every sense and from every angle,” said Gili Lustig, CEO of the Israel Olympic Committee. “This is a competition that combines very diverse professional skills. Alpine skiing is considered the most popular sport at the Winter Olympics and Szollos demonstrated a high ability throughout the competition. He has two more competitions ahead. Both he and his sister Noa Szollos (19) are promising young athletes ahead of the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Cortina, Italy in 2026. Congratulations to their father, their professional manager Peter Szollos, who accompanied them from an early age."
The Olympic gold in the alpine combined went to Austria’s Johannes Strolz, who finished with 1:43.87, silver was won by Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Canada’s James Crawford took the bronze.
Szollos’ sixth-place finish puts him tied for Israel’s best Winter Olympics showing ever with ice dancers Galit Chait and Sergei Sakhnovski, who placed sixth in ice dancing at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.
The 2022 Winter Olympics is the eighth in history to include Israeli representatives. The second-largest Israeli delegation ever consisted of six athletes – four men and two women. Israel sent 10 representatives in 2008.
On Wednesday, Israeli speed skater Vladislav Bykanov advanced to the semifinals of the 1500-meter short track event, but did not qualify for the finals, finishing 17th overall. He will compete in the qualification round for his final event, the 500-meter, on Friday.
On Tuesday, Israeli figure skater Alexei Bychenko fell during his short program, coming in 26th and failing to advance to the free skate, ending his performance at his third Olympics.
Pairs figure skaters Hailey Kops and Evgeni Krasnopolski will not hit the ice until next Friday.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.