Cpl. Toumarkin swimming
Cpl. Toumarkin swimmingIsrael news photo: IDF/Roni Aviv

Six IDF soldiers are “fighting” in the London Olympics – competing as part of the Israeli Team in swimming, Judo and rhythmic gymnastics.

Corporal Yakov-Yan Toumarkin, age 20, is in the Israeli Air Force. He also previously has won a gold medal in the LEN European Aquatics Championships 100m backstroke, and he was a FINA World Aquatics Championships silver medal winner in 100m and 200m backstrokes.

“There is a huge excitement. I feel like I’m standing a few floors above the top of the world. On the day I qualified to participate in the 2012 Olympic games I felt very relieved, because at the end of the day, this was my goal,” he told the IDF’s Mahane magazine.

“I aim for the semi-finals” for the 200m backstroke competition,” he said. “I might still find myself in the finals if I accidentally get there, but anyway, there’s always the next Olympic games.

Toumarkin failed to make it to the semi-finals in the 100m backstroke competition.

Sergeant Gal Nevo, 25, serves in a computer service unit and is an Israel Swimming Championship gold medal winner in 200m and 400m individual medley and 200m butterfly. “This is a dream that came true for the second time of my life, after I participated in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing,” he said. “This time it’s more stressful. I arrived at the previous Olympic Games almost accidentally, and so I could only surprise people in a positive way. This time, it’s harder to only aim for the experience, because the public expectation is higher, and I also expect more of myself.”

His goal is “to participate in two finals. No other Israeli swimmer has ever done that, and it’s a high bar to aim for.”

Sergeant Golan Pollack, 23, is a general worker n the IDF and is ranked as number 22 in the world in judo. He is an Israel Judo Championship and Macabee Games gold medal winner in the under 66 kg (145 pounds) category.   

“Two weeks ago, the Olympic Committee of Israel took all the participating athletes on a team-building trip to the Dead Sea. Suddenly I was shocked that I was a part of this big thing. I’ve always dreamed of getting here, and now I’m very proud to know that I’ve succeeded,” he said.

He lost on Sunday to his French opponent.

Sergeant Artiom Arshansky, 21, also is a general worker in the IDF and is competing in the judo under 60 kg category. He won a contest this week that moved him into the top 16 competitors.

“They only let me know that I can participate in the Olympic Games a month ago. I met the international qualifications to participate in the games, but not the Israeli qualifications, which are a little bit tougher,” he said. “Eventually I got permission to participate, and from that moment the huge excitement began.”

Corporal Moran Buzovsky, 20 and a general worker in the IDF, is competing in rhythmic gymnastics:

“I don’t think there is anyone who is participating in the Olympic Games who isn’t excited,” she said. “It’s a great honor to be a part of the team and to represent Israel for the first time, and this feeling only gets stronger when I know that I’m doing it as a soldier.”

Corporal Neta Rivkin, 21 and a general worker in the IDF, also is participating in rhythmic gymnastics:

She reached 14th place in the Beijing Olympic Games and is a 2011 world championship bronze medal winner.

“It’s the second time at the Olympic Games for me,” she said. I’m under a lot of stress, but this time I know how to cope better with it. The expectations from me are higher, but I also feel more confident because of the experience that I have.”