Three-time Israeli Olympian Shefa returns to Rome: “The 100m at the 1960 Games were won by Larson, not Devitt”
The 79-year-old Gershon Shefa is surprised to hear that his decades-long sports career is remembered outside Israel, the nation he represents and where he is well known. For the Olympic athlete, competing in Rome has a special flavour.
The Rome 1960 Olympic Games were the first for him. “Being here is like closing a cycle. In 1960 I was 17 years old. It was the real beginning of my career. I was very young and new to the swimming arena. The Olympics were great. I loved everything. I watched all the sports. I remember one episode in particular: the hard-fought final of the men's 100m freestyle: the USA’s Lance Larson had touched the plate first, but the judges with their timing awarded the gold to the Australian John Devitt. I was very impressed by that moment,” he said.
After also participating at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, four years later he was the Israeli flagbearer at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Mexico City. "It was my third Olympics. It was a very emotional moment, all my other compatriots were behind me. It was a great honour to be able to finish the last competition of my first career in this way. Then I stayed out of the water and coached, even at international level,” he added.
The lure of the water was so strong that, after 23 years, Shefa returned to the swimming blocks. "In this second career I have broken European and world records several times. Swimming for me is everything. I always talk about it to those I meet. It has made me a man, it has given me the outline of life that I have passed on to my children. My wife and my family support me throughout this journey,” he said.
After winning already bronze in the men’s 100m breaststroke, Shefa competes in the 75-79 category and still aims to take a gold medal: "I hope so, I still have the 200 individual medley and the 100 backstroke."
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