Before the World Cup, Israeli swimmers are very worried. They even think about the Munich Olympic attack. How do you feel now in Qatar, which plays an important role in the Middle East conflict?
In synchronized swimming, smiling is an integral part of the sport. The athletes smile as they introduce themselves. When they get out of the pool, they smile. And when they wait for the points for their performances, they smile too.
The Israeli synchronized swimmers are also smiling at the World Championships in Doha. However, they don’t do this as carefree as most of their competitors. The Middle East war and concern for compatriots is omnipresent. After the attack by Hamas terrorists on Israel, the synchronous team openly reported on Instagram about their fear of flying to Qatar.
“Until the end, we didn’t know whether we could come here. In the end, our government decided that it was safe for us – including the government of Qatar,” said Israeli synchronized swimmer Ariel Nassee to the German Press Agency. Qatar is one of the most important mediators in the Middle East war between Israel and the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The emirate reportedly supported Hamas financially for many years before the outbreak of war, with the knowledge and approval of Israel.
The situation at home is “of course a burden for us,” says Nassee. But the 20-year-old also says combatively: “We came here and want to show everything we can. We’re not concerned with politics now.” Just a look at her commitment and that of her teammates over the past few months shows how difficult this is.
The athletes repeatedly made it clear how much the situation in Israel and Gaza concerns them. They used their athletic skills to help the people kidnapped by Hamas. In the swimming pool they used their bodies to form the sentence “Bring them home now!” (“Bring her home now!”). 100 days after the attack by Hamas terrorists, the synchronized swimmers showed a big 100 in the water. “100 days in hell,” is written next to the picture with which the swimmers demanded the release of all hostages.
Thoughts on Munich 1972
On October 7, Hamas terrorists committed the worst massacre in Israel’s history. More than 1,200 people were killed. Around 240 hostages were taken to Gaza. More than 100 of them are still in the hands of Hamas. The synchronized swimmers were also afraid of becoming victims of an assassination or kidnapping at the World Championships. “We are afraid that Munich 1972 will be repeated,” they wrote in November. At that time, eleven Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by terrorists during the Olympic Games.
Palestinian terrorists broke into the Israeli athletes’ accommodation in the Olympic Village in Munich. They shot two men and took nine hostages, who later died at the airfield in Fürstenfeldbruck.
Only each of them knows exactly how much thoughts about their own safety preoccupy the athletes during their competitions in the Aspire Dome. Nassee says: “We feel safe – as safe as we can.” One thing is clear: the trip to Doha is not a normal competition trip for her – despite all the smiles.
I am Pierce Boyd, a driven and ambitious professional working in the news industry. I have been writing for 24 Hours Worlds for over five years, specializing in sports section coverage. During my tenure at the publication, I have built an impressive portfolio of articles that has earned me a reputation as an experienced journalist and content creator.