Israel made history when its men’s marathon team won a gold medal at this summer’s European Championships.
This year’s competition saw a minor rule change, with medals awarded to both individual athletes and teams, with teams’ final place determined by the best overall score of the three fastest runners.
The rule left the Israel team beaming after runners Marhu Teferi and Gashau Ayala finished second and third respectively, helping them win gold overall.
Ethiopian-born Teferi previously broke Israeli records in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters and finished 10th at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The duo certainly made Israel proud at the European Championships, but it also begs the question as to why they are taking part in the competition given their geographic location.
Why is Israel at the European Championship?
Not surprisingly, the European Championship invites European countries to compete – however, Israel is in the Middle East.
Geographically it is part of the Asian continent but stands at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. To the west of the country lies the Mediterranean Sea, while to the north it is also surrounded by Lebanon and Syria, Jordan (east), Egypt (southwest) and the Red Sea (south).
Although it may raise eyebrows, Israel has actually been taking part in the European Championship since 1990 and has also taken part in other European events such as the UEFA soccer tournaments and the Eurovision Song Contest.
Israel was first appointed “temporary” members of the European Athletics Federation by the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) in 1989.
This came after they were banned from the Asian Games for political reasons, as they were seen as a security risk due to conflicts with other Arab nations represented on the Olympic Council of Asia.
Israel is now a full member of the European Athletic Association, having first sent three athletes to the event in Croatia in 1990.
How many European Championship medals have you won?
Israel’s first medal at the European Championships came 12 years after joining the competition in 2002, when Aleksandr Averbukh won gold in the pole vault.
Prior to the 2022 European Championships, Israel had won three gold, one silver and one bronze medals and have now added another medal from each medal in this year’s competition.
They were much more successful during their time at the Asian Games and won 53 medals – including 18 gold medals – in their five appearances until 1974.
The Israel national football team suffered a similar fate when they were banned from the 1974 Asian Games.
Bar played in the Oceanic group for the 1986 and 1990 World Cup and has featured in UEFA qualifiers since 1982.
Club football teams were also expelled in 1972 and joined UEFA in 1991, allowing them to play in the Champions League, Europa League and Cup Winners’ Cup.
When does the European Championship end?
This year’s competition started today (Monday 15th August) and is scheduled to last almost two weeks – until Sunday 21st August 2022.
The European Championship takes place in Munich, making it the second time in three years that Germany has hosted the competition.
The UK is expected to host the Championships in 2026, with the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham set to take place after this summer’s Commonwealth Games.