(JTA) — Israel won its first-ever gold medals at the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Championships in Valencia, Spain, over the weekend, improving on last year’s silver medal and solidifying its place as a global powerhouse in the sport.
On Friday, Israel’s team topped China and Spain to take gold in the all-around group category. On Sunday, Israel won gold in the combined exercise, beating out China and Ukraine. The team also finished fifth in the hoop final.
Linoy Ashram, who became the first Israeli woman to win an Olympic gold medal with her rhythmic gymnastics victory at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, served as an assistant trainer to the team. She retired from the sport last year at age 22.
“I think you can hear in my voice how excited we were and how we screamed yesterday, and what a crazy achievement we had yesterday,” Ashram told Haaretz. “Undoubtedly, the girls work hard, together with an amazing team of coaches.”
The gold medal-winning performance on Friday featured a three-minute ribbons and balls routine set to a dance track mixed with the chorus of “Diva,” by Israeli singer Dana International — which won the 1998 Eurovision song contest. It also featured a three-minute hoop routine with music from Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s 2017 film “Wonder Woman.”
“We are really happy that we managed to get this medal and that we got the chance to scream out the anthem from the podium,” said Romi Paritzki, the team’s captain, according to Haaretz. “It’s the best feeling any athlete can have.”
Partizki was joined in the performance by teammates Shani Bakanov, Eliza Banchuk, Adar Friedmann, Ofir Shaham and Diana Svertsov. The team had won the all-around competition in the European championship last year and added two silvers and a gold at this year’s competition.
The silver medal win at last year’s world championship secured a spot for Israel in the group competition at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
While her team placed sixth in the overall all-around standings in Tokyo, Ashram’s gold medal victory — won by .15 of a point — broke a streak of several Russian wins dating back to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.