“Hava Nagila” provided the classic soundtrack to Israeli figure skater Alexei Bychenko’s routine as he qualified for the Olympic finals on Friday, with a 13th-place finish in the short program heat. Team mate Daniel Samohin was not far behind with his 18th overall.
Overall points saw Bychenko, the first Israeli skater to medal at the European Championships, managing a total of 84.13 points for his routine while Samohin recorded 80.69 points, skated to “L’Immensita” by Il Volo.
As encouraged as they may be by qualification for the final skate off, neither Israeli can claim confidence of a podium finish as the top 24 skaters, out of a field of 30, progress to the final round — Saturday’s decisive free skate at the Gangneung Ice Arena.
The top medal contenders number Japanese Yuzuru Hanyu and Canadian Patrick Chan, who won gold and silver in Sochi, respectively.
Javier Fernandez of Spain, Yan Han of China, Shoma Uno of Japan (the winner in team short program), and Denis Ten of Kazakhstan (the Sochi bronze medalist) are the other big names to watch in what is traditionally a fiercely competitive event.
Ten Israeli athletes are competing at these games in four sports: figure skating, short-track speed skating, alpine skiing and skeleton.
Israel has never won a medal at the winter edition of the Olympics, but this year’s delegation is double the size of its previous team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
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