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Penn State Gymnastics: Israel Could Keep Aronovich From Competing in Olympics

by on January 19, 2012 3:54 PM

Like most gymnasts, Felix Aronovich has one shot at the Olympics.

When he qualified for the 2012 summer games in London, it should've been a tremendous achievement for the native of Israel. He should finish up his junior year with the No. 1 Penn State men's gymnastics team through May, then stay fresh at the European Championships and continue practicing through the summer in preparation for London.

Instead, he might not compete in the Olympics at all, despite meeting the Olympic standard. The real kicker: His own country may be the reason he doesn't go.

Olympic qualifications stipulate that if a gymnast meets the Olympic standard, they're in. But Israel likely won't send Aronovich to London unless he qualifies for an event final or finishes in the top 12 in the all-around at May's European Championships in France, he said. It's a bizarre higher standard for a country that isn't even a major player at the international level, his college coach, Randy Jepson said, adding he thinks Israel is the only country with this extra standard.

"It's kind of stupid," Aronovich said before Wednesday's practice in the White Building. "In any other country, the guys who qualify individually, they're all going, that’s it. For some reason, the stupid country wants me to make another qualifier. It's kind of stupid because if I don’t do good and I don’t pass their bar, the Israeli committee bar, then they wouldn’t send me."

Strange, right?

Ridiculous, Aronovich said.

"He made the Olympic standard, which is the biggest hoop," Jepson said. "Israel is probably the only country in the world that has something else like this. It's crazy."

An email sent to the Israeli Olympic Committee on Thursday morning was not returned as of this post.

Aronovich said his coaches and people from the gymnastics federation will try to convince the Israeli Olympic Committee to remove the added criteria.

Two other gymnasts qualified individually for the Summer Games: Alex Shatilov for the men and Valeria Maksiuta on the women's side.

Three total. And Israel may keep one at home.

"If you want to make ground on the international scene, you need to be there," Jepson said. "So you’d think for sure they’d wanna send their guy.

"It logically doesn’t make any sense. It's not a financial issue. They have the money to send him. There’s only a gain that can be had for sending him."

Aronovich said he scored an 83.2 in the all-around at the Olympic Qualifier in London earlier this month, good enough for about 45th overall. He said meeting the higher Israeli standard would essentially take a perfect performance and is an extremely high burden because his start values aren't high to begin with.

Aronovich isn't letting the higher standard distract him from his collegiate competition with the Nittany Lions. Despite being upset about the higher criteria, he said he'll go to the European Championships to compete with his national team, which didn't qualify for the Olympics.

There, he'll try to finish in the top 12 or advance to a final. If he doesn't, it will come down to a country's decision on whether to send Aronovich to what is likely his only Olympiad.

"It sucks, man," he said, his voice trailing off.



Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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