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Israel stuns Europe with poignant gold medal in team marathon in Munich

Israeli runners also nabbed silver and bronze medals in individual event

This article originally appeared on Haaretz, and was reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Israel won the gold medal in the team marathon event at the European Athletics Championship in Munich on Monday with a combined time of 6:31.48.

Mahru Teferi won a silver in the individual runners’ competition, after losing the lead in the final meters of the race to a German rival, Richard Ringer. The latter finished with a time of 2:10:21, while Teferi’s time was 2:10:23.

Gashau Ayale finished third, with a time of 2:10:29, thereby earning himself a bronze medal.

Teferi and Ayale, who both train with Maccabi Tel Aviv, were among the front-runners almost throughout the race. Most of the time, two of their teammates, Yimer Getahun and Girmaw Amare, were up there with them.

It was thanks to Getahun, who finished seventh with a time of 2:10:56, that Israel nabbed the gold for the team event. To win that medal, a team must have at least three runners, and its top three members must have the best combined time.

Amare was the fourth Israeli to make it into the top 10, with a time of 2:11:32, which earned him fifth place. The last member of the team to finish the course in Munich, Omer Rimon, finished in 26th place with a time of 2:16:35. Another teammate, Bukai Melda, failed to finish the race.

The only Israeli competing in the women’s marathon, Maor Tiyouri, finished 28th with a time of 2:38:04.

“This is really exciting for me, particularly in a special place like Munich,” Teferi said after the race, referring to the 11 Israeli athletes who were massacred by terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics. “I’m happy that we represented the country honorably. We know what happened here 50 years ago. To return here and win is an incredible achievement. I have no words to describe this feeling.”

He also credited the training routine that helped him to this achievement, saying, “the planning was good, and the running was very good.”

Teferi said he was aware of Ringer gaining on him at the end. “Unfortunately, he had more power, but I gave it everything I could,” he added.

Ayale also referred to the Munich massacre. “Winning is so sweet,” he said. “Fifty years after what happened here, winning a medal and waving the Israeli flag is just so sweet.”

“I worked very hard for my personal medal,” he added. “I came with an open mind, I went with the flow of the race and it worked.”

Ami Baran, president of the Israel Athletics Association, congratulated the team. “It’s so exciting that I don’t even have words to describe this achievement,” he said. “We have to take 100 hats off to our runners, our trainers and everyone who had a hand in this. To see Israeli medals in Munich 50 years after that terrible massacre is chilling. This is an exceptional year for athletics, and I hope we’ll continue to bring the country joy.”

Israel’s Olympic Committee sounded a similar note. “Terrific history in Munich,” it said in a statement. “The Olympic Committee congratulates and embraces the Israeli marathon runners and the Athletics Association, all the associations and the professional crew, for an achievement of rare quality at both the group and the individual level.

Fifty years after the murder of 11 Israeli athletes “at that bloody Olympics, we’re moved to tears to experience the exciting continuity of Israeli sports on Munich’s soil,” the statement added.

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