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Israeli swimmer wins the nation's first World Championship gold medals in Abu Dhabi

Anastasia Gorbenko – just 18 – has a shining future ahead in the sport

Israel's Anastasia Gorbenko (center) poses with her gold medal alongside France's silver medalist Beryl Gastaldello and Russia's bronze medalist Maria Kameneva after winning the 100-meter individual medley on December 19, 2021, at the World Swimming Championships in Abu Dhabi. (Photo: Israel Swimming Association)

An 18-year-old Israeli swimmer made history last weekend winning two gold medals in the World Championship in Abu Dhabi marking a first time win by an athlete representing the Jewish state in the international competition. 

To make the story even more spectacular, the medals were won in the United Arab Emirates – a Muslim nation in the Gulf that signed a peace agreement with Israel in 2020.

In an impressive race, Anastasia Gorbenko won Israel’s first World Championship gold medal in the women’s 50-meter breaststroke on Friday, breaking her own national record by finishing the race in 29.34 seconds. 

And there was more to come. The young Israeli swimming sensation won her second gold medal in the 100-meter medley final on Sunday. Gorbenko finished the race in 57.80 seconds, narrowly beating the French swimmer Beryl Gastaldello and Russian swimmer Maria Kameneva. 

“I’m really happy. This is my best time ever. I’m enjoying it here, having fun and this is already my second gold medal – it’s incredible!” Gorbenko told Israeli Channel 12 after winning her historic two gold medals. 

Israel’s Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper congratulated Gorbenko after her first gold medal. 

“With perseverance and determination, you have proven how to make history! We are waiting to celebrate with you here in Israel,” Tropper said. 

Knesset Member Alex Kushnir, from the largely Russian-speaking Yisrael Beytenu party headed by Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, also congratulated the young Israeli swimmer, who is of Ukrainian descent. 

“Anastasia Gorbenko made history today. You are our national pride,” tweeted Kushnir. 

The historic two gold medals in the World Championship come at the end of an uneven year for Gorbenko. Gorbenko failed to produce any significant achievements in the summer Olympics in Tokyo, finishing overall eighth in the race. 

“It was challenging to swim the 100-meter backstroke and then the 200-meter individual medley. That was probably what made it difficult for me. I will try to improve next time,” a disappointed Gorbenko told the Sports Channel in July. 

The Israeli teenager was right. In November, Gorbenko won a gold medal at the European Short Course Championship in the 200-meter individual medley. 

“My goal is always to advance as far as possible, and to break my own personal records,” she said after her gold-medal performance in the European championship. 

With her recent gold medals in Abu Dhabi, the super-talent Gorbenko has firmly established herself among the world’s best female swimmers. Given her young age and immense talent, it is likely that the sports world will hear much more about the Israeli swimming star and her future successes. 

Gorbenko was born in the Israeli city Haifa in 2003 as a child of Ukrainian immigrants. Already in 2019, the then 15-year old Gorbenko won the women’s 200-meter race at the Barcelona Open competition. 

Since the early 1990s, approximately 1 million Jewish immigrants from Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet Republics have moved to the Jewish state where they and their descendants have made great contributions to Israeli society in sports, science, culture, politics, fashion, technology and many other fields.

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

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