Israel made history when their men’s marathon team claimed a gold medal at this summer’s European Championships.
This year’s competition underwent a slight rule change in which medals would be awarded to both individual athletes and teams, with the teams’ final place determined by the best overall result of its three fastest runners.
The rule left the Israeli team beaming after runners Marhu Teferi and Gashau Ayala claimed second and third place respectively, helping them claim gold overall.
Ethiopia-born Teferi has previously broken Israeli records in the 1,500 and 5,000 metre runs and also came in 10th place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The duo certainly did Israel proud at the European Championships, however it also raises the question as to why, given their geographical location, they participate in the competition.
Why are Israel in the European Championships?
Unsurprisingly, the European Championships welcomes European countries to compete - however Israel is in the Middle East.
Geographically, it’s part of the continent of Asia but stands at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. To the west of the country is the Mediterranean Sea, while it also surrounded by Lebanon and Syria to the north, Jordan (east), Egypt (southwest) and the Red Sea (south).
While it may raise eyebrows, Israel have actually been competing at the European Championships since 1990 and have also competed in other European events such as the UEFA football tournaments and the Eurovision Song Contest.
Israel were first made ‘temporary’ members of the European Athletic Association in 1989 by the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF).
This came after they were excluded from the Asia Games due to political reasons as they were thought to be a security risk due to conflict with other Arab nations representated at the Olympic Council of Asia.
Israel are now a full of member of the European Athletic Association after first sending three athletes to the 1990 event in Croatia.
How many European Championship medals have they 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.
Previous to the 2022 European Championships, Israel had won three gold, one silver and one bronze medal and have now added another of each medal to their tally in this year’s competition.
They enjoyed much more success during their time at the Asian Games, winning 53 medals - including 18 gold - in their five appearances up until 1974.
Israel’s national football team also suffered a similar fate when they were expelled from the Asian Games in 1974.
Bar featuring in the Oceanic group for the World Cup in 1986 and 1990, Israel have played in the UEFA qualifiers since ‘82.
Club football sides were also expelled in 1972 and went onto join UEFA in 1991, allowing them to play in the Champions League, Europa League and Cup Winners’ Cup.
When does the European Championships end?
This year’s competition began today (Monday August 15th) and is due to run for almost two weeks - coming to a close on Sunday August 21st 2022.
The European Championships is held in Munich, making it the second time in three years Germany have hosted the competition.
The UK is set to play host to the Championships in 2026, with Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium set to follow up from this summer’s Commonwealth Games.