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Articles > Olympic Notebook, Part 5: Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore… Just As Fast As You Can!

When the members of Israel’s Olympic team entered the 91,000 seat Beijing National Stadium for the opening ceremony, leading the processsion was flagbearer Michael Kolganov, a returning Olympian, one of five Israelis to have earned an Olympic medal, and one of the delegation’s many olim (immigrants from other countries).

Koganov, 33, was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where he took up canoeing at the age of 14. “My parents were looking for something that would help me lose weight – I was fat as a kid,” he recalled. Older brother Andrei was already a Soviet youth champion. Later, Kolganov (who was known then as Mikhail) graduated from the University of Tashkent where he studied physical education.

In 1995, Kolganov immigrated to Israel, settling first in Haifa, but relocating to the Jordan Valley, where he settled in Kibbutz Degania Bet (one of the country’s first kibbutzim located at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee) and began to train with HaPoel Emek HaYarden.

“I have friend who went to American and Germany,” he told a reporter, “but as a Jew I believe that my place is here. I feel very much at home in Israel. My life style in here suits me. I prefer waking up each monring to the mountains and the lake rather than the noise of Tel Aviv or Haifa.”

Kolganov is a two-time K1 200m world champion (1998 and 1999) as well as having taken a silver medal in the 500m competition in 1998.

In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Kolganov turned in a bronze medal winning performance in the K1 500m event, while finishing 4th in the 1000m. He told the Jerusalem Post that standing at the medal ceremony was the most rewarding moment in his sporting career. “It was very touching; I won a medal in very hard competition. It got us to the medal stand and it is impossible to forget that”.

Kolganov became one of only five Israeli athletes to date to medal in Olympic competition. He was unable to repeat in Athens, finishing 4th in the K1 500m.

While expectations for Kolganov are no longer what they once were, his experience may give him an advantage over the competition. Depending on how the qualifying heats go, Kolganov could end up competing against fellow Israeli Rami Zur (profiled in Part 2 of this Olympic update).

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