Of the 8 Israeli swimmers who will compete, 2 serve in the IAF. “I represent both my country and the IDF in front of my competitors from around the world”
From a young age, Pvt. Yaakov Tomarkin and Cpl. Imri Ganiel were brought up with a well-known IAF saying: "The sky is not the limit." For years, they have been training for this day, and this week they will attempt to prove themselves in the moment of truth: the 2012 London Olympics.
Before flying to London, the IAF swimmers met with IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel. The commander has taken a great interest in the two soldiers' careers, in their long-term plans, and in their integration of swimming and military service.
"I understand that it's not an easy combination, but the fact that you are in uniform is already an achievement," said Maj. Gen. Eshel, "We're very proud of you. The Olympics are a difficult feat; we're crossing our fingers for you."
Diving in Pvt. Tomarkin (20) earned his ticket to the Olympics in the World Championship in Shanghai, breaking the Israeli record in the 200-meter backstroke. Between morning and evening practices, Pvt. Tomarkin serves in an administration squadron at the Sde Dov airbase.
"My commander is very supportive of me and allows me to train fully,” explained Pvt. Tomarkin, who trains over ten times a week."It was important to me to complete a full service just like everyone else; it is a sort of calling. I represent both my country and the IDF in front of my competitors around the world, and prove that as a soldier you can reach high levels and succeed."
Cpl. Imri Ganiel secured his spot on the Olympic team in the European Championship held last May. In his case, competitive swimming is a family business: His father is Amir Ganiel, former Israeli swimming champion and member of the national team, who was supposed to participate in the 1980 Moscow Olympics – but missed it as a result of the Western boycott.
"As someone who foresees the physical and mental stresses of an athlete, I feel very proud of Imri," said Amir, adding that his son "has demonstrated tenacity and we are, of course, elated about his participation in the Olympics."