Israeli Paralympic Athletes Leave Rio with Three Medals

Moran Samuel (Wikimedia Commons/ Tzneuner)

The Rio Paralympics ended on Sunday with Israel taking home three bronze medals. While rower Moran Samuel won her first Paralympic medal, shooter Doron Shaziri and swimmer Inbal Pezaro reinforced their positions as two of Israel’s greatest Paralympians.

Shaziri, 49, placed third in the men’s 50-meter rifle three positions final, winning his eighth medal in the Paralympics. He has medaled in every Paralympics since 1996 – six consecutive games. Shaziri lost his left leg below the knee after he stepped on a land mine as a solider in Lebanon in 1987. He was 20.

“I saw I had no leg, but [wondered] how do you fix it with a prosthetic?” he was quoted as telling Sports Channel years later. His leg was amputated below the knee.

Shaziri makes custom-made wheelchairs for disabled athletes at a shop in Ramat Gan in order to support his his wife and two children.

“Training every day would mean neglecting my business, my income source, but I would be performing better if I could,” Shaziri told the Forward before the 2008 Olympics.

Pezaro won her ninth Paralympic medal in Rio, finishing third in the women’s SM5 200m individual medley final. She reached the final in all five of her individual events in Rio, but the 29 year old was disappointed with her performance.

“I feel that I missed out,” she said. “I didn’t succeed in bringing out my full ability and that frustrates me. I’m happy to be leaving here with a medal but over the past year I’ve shown that I’m worth more, but I didn’t manage to show it in Rio.”

In the past two Paralympics she won three medals each and prior to that won two in 2004. Pezaro, who was paralyzed in both legs from birth, was raised in an English speaking home on Kibbutz Yizra’el, where she still lives. When she was five she began swimming at the Haifa sports center run by ILAN-Israeli Association for Children with Disabilities. She started competing at 11.

Samuel, 34, who won her first Paralympic medal, was once a member of Israel’s national basketball team until, at 24 years old, she experienced a rare spinal stroke. She adapted her love of sports to her new life and played basketball with the national wheelchair team.

Eventually Samuel took up a solo sport as well. She won the gold at the World Cup rowing competition in Italy this spring. When the organizers, for some reason, didn’t have Israel’s national anthem on hand to play, Samuel asked for a microphone and sang it instead.