A 20-member Israeli team participated in the Invictus Games that took place in Dusseldorf, Germany, last week.
Twenty-one nations, including debutant Israel, participated in 10 adaptive sports at the biennial completion for wounded, injured and ill veteran and active defense personnel that included swimming, cycling, archery, table tennis, hand-cycling and indoor rowing.
Team Israel members were aged between 24 and 68, and were accompanied by four coaches and staff from the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization (ZDVO). All train at the state-of-the-art Beit Halochem (“Warrior’s House”) centers in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheva.
The Invictus Games are the brainchild of Britain’s Prince Harry and were founded in 2014. Israel was invited to join the organization in 2022.
Shali Shalom Zanzuri, a financial analyst who trains at Beit Halochem in Tel Aviv, shattered his midfoot during routine training while serving as a combat soldier in the IDF’s Kfir infantry brigade. He has been swimming competitively for two years.
Zanzuri spoke to Zenger News after winning his medals.
“Invictus has been absolutely amazing, it feels like the Mondial [FIFA soccer World Cup]. I have made friends for life and people from all over the world have been cheering us on,” he said.
“This is the world championships for disabled veterans and we really do this for ourselves. To be there with the Israeli flag was amazing and I am so grateful to the ZDVO, thank you to my coaches, Eran Groumi and Noach Ram.
“When I was in the pool I was crying with emotion. Israel is loved and respected. All the competitors understand each other, soldier to soldier, and they admire the IDF. The USA team sees us as brothers.
“When I was swimming, everything else seemed so small; I fix myself from the inside. This has been so amazing,” Zanzuri said.
Ora Seidner, who works on project development for the ZDVO’s Zahal Disabled Veterans Fund and accompanied the team, told Zenger News last week, “Team Israel is doing great and they are well into their training routines and starting to compete. We had a fabulous opening ceremony, electrifying, well beyond our dreams and the new teams from Israel, Nigeria and Colombia were given an extra warm welcome.
“JNF Germany hosted an event in our honor, attended by the German Minister of Defense [Boris Pistorius] and former IAF commander [Maj. Gen. (res.)] Ido Nehushtan, who is from Boeing. Boeing is a sponsor of Invictus,” Seidner continued.
“Prince Harry requested a separate meeting and spent 30 minutes meeting the team. He shook everyone’s hands. Our chairman of ZDVO, Edan Kleiman, is also here, heading our delegation,” she said.
“The commander of the German Air Force [Lt. Gen. Ingo Gerhartz] is a keen cyclist and will join our cyclists in their training session later this week. We have our own Invictus in Israel, using sports as a major component in our rehabilitation for wounded veterans,” Seidner said.
Team Israel did well in their inaugural Invictus games. Its 14 medals included silver and gold for mixed doubles in table tennis, Kobi Gershoni taking bronze in 100-meter freestyle swimming, Zanzuri a silver and bronze for swimming, Amitai Arnon, bronze for swimming, Menashe Zurik and Yagur Kasri, gold for table tennis, and Yigal Legaziel and Boaz Arad, silver for table tennis.
The next Invictus Games will take place in 2025 in Whistler, north of Vancouver.
Produced in association with Jewish News Syndicate
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