(1977 - )
Arik Ze'evi, who took up judo because his two older
brothers competed in the sport, has become Israel's top performer in
the sport over the past few years; at the 2001 World Championships,
he won the silver medal in the open competition.
His earliest success came at the 1995 European Junior
Championships, when he won in the 86-kg class; he then finished seventh
in the 95-kg class at the 1997 World Championships. In 1999, Ze'evi
placed fifth in the 100-kg class at the World Championships; he reached
the final five, but withdrew due to an injury. He subsequently won the
bronze medal at the European Championship. At the 2000 European Championships,
Ze'evi lost in the first round to Igor Makarov of Bulgaria.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Arik Ze'evi was a member
of the Israeli judo team and competed in the half-heavyweight (100-kg)
class. He reached the semifinals, but did not medal after losing to
France's Stephane Traineau in the bronze medal match. Controversy surrounded
the decision as Ze'evi controlled most of the match, but was pinned
long enough by Traineau to score an ippon, the equivalent of a knockout.
The ippon may have occured out of bounds, however, and after Traineau
was awarded the point, the judges reconsidered their decision and ruled
it no good. Finally, the judges reverted to their original call and
Ze'evi was ruled out. He officially finished in fifth place.
In May 2001, Ze'evi had his greatest success to date,
winning the European Championship in the heavyweight division and becoming
the first-ever Israeli to win a gold medal at the Championships. At
the World Championships in late July, 2001, Ze'evi lost in the second
round of the heavyweight class to 2000 Olympic silver medalist Nicolas
Gill of Canada. Despite this disappointment, he managed to reach the
final of the open competition, and finished in second place to capture
the silver medal.
On May 16, 2004, Ze'evi won his third European Championship
title in Bucharest. After an automatic bye in the first round, Arik
faced Ivori Yakorieli of Georgia and dispensed of him within a minute
and thirteen seconds. He beat his nemesis Jocelyn Lamerre in the semi-final
in a hotly contested match. In the final, the European champion easily
defeated Antal Kovac for his second straight title and his third in
four years. With this victory he became the first Israeli athlete to
win three European titles in any sport.
Ze'evi entered the Athens 2004 Olympics as the top
medal prospect on Israel's Olympic judo team. In his first bout in the
2004 Athens Games, Ze'evi was drawn against Mario Sabino of Brazil.
The Brazilian was very sharp in the opening stages of the round of 32
confrontation and the two were in a deadlock. After 2:20 Arik was awarded
a Koka but a minute later the Brazilian won a Yuko. From that moment
on the Israeli went on a rampage winning a Waza-ari and outmaneuvering
his opponent to such an extent that he was penalized for lack of aggression
and disqualified with eight seconds to go. Ze'evi opened poorly against
his round of 16 opponent, Michele Monti (Italy). Monti was ahead by
a Waza-ari within 54 seconds and forced the Israeli onto the defensive.
There followed an indecisive three minute interlude before Arik slammed
his hapless opponent for an Ippon. The Israeli judoka lost the quarterfinal
to South Korean Sung Ho Jang despite a good performance. Ze'evi was
ahead by a Waza-ari when blood began pouring off a cut in his nose.
The Korean won an impressive Ippon with 0:54 on the clock.
Arik was forced to seek his fortune in the repechage
(consolation round) and opened with an impressive victory over Franck
Martial Moussima of Cameroon. He advanced to the repechage final, where
he needed a victory in order to compete for the bronze medal. He faced
Frenchman Ghislain Lemaire (ranked second in the world), and breezed
past him. Arik won a Koka after 2:44 and an Ippon with 2:11 on the clock
as he paralyzed his rival completely for 25 seconds. The Israeli faced
a tired looking Elco van Der Geest in the bronze medal contest. Ze'evi
won an Ippon after four minutes and nine seconds of a careful tactical
bout and took the bronze. It was Israel's first medal in the 2004 Olympics.
Sources: Jews In
Sports; Image licensed under Wikipedia Commons