Records For Israeli Swimmers, Medals For Americans


Some politics, some national records for Israel, no medals.
Some drama, some world records for American athletes, several medals.
That was the scorecard after the first days of the XXIX Summer Olympics at Beijing.
Most of the action came in the pool.

Canoer Michael Kalganov led the Israeli delegation, above, into Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” stadium during opening ceremonies.

International politics, always the bane of the Olympic movement, made its way into the swimming competition when Mohammad Alirezaei, an Iranian breaststroker, pulled out of a 100-meter heat at the last minute. He claimed illness. Swimming officials suspected that the real reason was the presence of Israeli Tom Be’eri, bottom left, in lane seven.
Iran has refused to let its Olympians compete against Israelis since the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Be’eri set an Israeli record in that heat, as did teammate Gal Nevo in a 200-meter individual medley heat. Neither progressed to the finals.

Another Israeli record was set by butterfly swimmer Alon Mendel, above center, in the 200-meter event, who competed with a heavy heart a week after the death of his father. His family encouraged Mendel to stay in China and race.

The drama came in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, in which the French men were heavily favored. Instead, Olympic veteran Jason Lezak, swimming the anchor leg, covered the two lengths in a relay record time, edging out the French swimmer, setting an Olympic record, winning a gold medal and keeping alive teammate Michael Phelps’ quest for a record eight golds this year.

Also on the relay team was Garrett Weber-Gale, taking part in his first Games. The relay team, bottom right, is, Cullen Jones, left, Lezak, Phelps and Weber-Gale.
Dana Torres, top right, at 41 the oldest women on the U.S. swimming team, led her team to a silver in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, and Sada Jacobson, center right, won silver in the women’s individual sabre, part of an American medals sweep.