Anastasia Gorbenko Making History for Israel, Exceling in Olympic Year

Anastasia Gorbenko of Israel competes in rde Women's Medley 200m Heats during rde 20rd World Aquatics Championships at rde Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 23rd, 2023.
Anastasia Gorbenko -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Anastasia Gorbenko Making History for Israel, Exceling in Olympic Year

Over the past several years, Anastasia Gorbenko has emerged as Israel’s finest swimmer in many generations, a path which began with medals at the 2018 Youth Olympics and 2019 European Junior Championships and continued with her first European title (in the 200 IM) and her first Olympic final (in the 100 backstroke) at age 17. In late 2021, she won world short course titles in the 50 breaststroke and 100 IM, making her the first Israeli swimmer to win a global title of any kind and only the third to ever win a medal at Short Course Worlds, joining Michael Halika (2000) and Vered Borochovski (2002).

Earlier this year, Gorbenko reached the long course World Championships podium for the first time, winning silver in the 400 individual medley. She actually led for the majority of the race before a late surge pushed Great Britain’s Freya Colbert ahead. Still, the result was historic: no other Israeli female or male had ever reached the podium at swimming’s main showcase meet.

Logically, the next step would be an Olympic medal, an accomplishment which no swimmer from her country has ever earned. The challenge will be tough in Gorbenko’s preferred medley events, but her results from the Mare Nostrum series in Western Europe last week have placed her into a prime position. She broke the Israeli record in the 400 IM at all three meets: from 4:37.36 (at the February World Championships) to 4:36.95 in Canet, then 4:36.57 in Barcelona and finally 4:34.87 in Monaco.

That Monaco swim moved Gorbenko to No. 5 in the world in the 400 IM, behind only world-record-holding Canadian Summer McIntosh, Australia’s Kaylee McKeown, the United States’ Katie Grimes and Colbert. Additionally, Gorbenko’s top mark of 2:08.63, from the Canet meet, ranks her seventh in the world this year, while her 2:08.45 in the 200 backstroke leaves her just outside of the global top-10.

Gorbenko currently trains under coach Tom Rushton and alongside Siobhan Haughey, the Hong Kong native who broke her country’s own medal drought in Olympic swimming by claiming silver in the 100 and 200 free at the Tokyo Olympics. Rushton explained Swimming World why the setup, with the group based out of the Hong Kong Sports Institute, has been so effective in producing elite performances.

Anastasia and Siobhan have been great training partners. They bring out the best in each other in and out of the pool. Anastasia has really bought into the work this season and is the fittest I’ve seen her. She was complaining a bit that they had nine training sessions in the five days leading up to Canet, but once she hit the water, she realized it was for a good reason,” Rushton said.

“I always like the Mare Nostrum tour — it’s basically a training camp for our squad with a lot of quality sessions coupled with rebuilding aerobic work, and my group usually progress over the three meets. Anastasia and Siobhan were vying in a very positive way for the overall trophy this year, and when being the best in your training group requires you to be one of the best swimmers in the world it’s a very good place to be.”

Breaking through with a medal-winning performance will not be an easy task for Gorbenko, but she will have a real chance, particularly in the 400 IM where a would-be medal favorite (McKeown) will not compete. At the very least, the 20-year-old Gorbenko has put herself in prime position to compete on the sport’s highest level at the Paris Olympics next month.

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 day ago

She’s improving exponentially. Impressive.
Could be and hopefully is a genuine medal contender in the 400m IM & 200m IM at Paris.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x