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HALEVI Erel
Sport Para swimming
NPC Israel   
GenderWomen
Age31
Place of BirthAlon HaGalil, ISR
Human Interest
Impairment Information
Type of Impairment
Impaired muscle power
Origin of Impairment
Acquired
Classification
S7, SB6, SM7
Further Personal Information
Family
Partner Ori Pearl
Occupation
Athlete, Motivational Speaker
Languages
English, Hebrew
Higher education
Neurological Science - Bar-Ilan University: Tel Aviv, ISR
Sport Specific Information
When and where did you begin this sport?
She took up swimming at age 13 with the Israel Foundation for Handicapped Children at the Ilan Sport Center in Haifa, Israel.
Why this sport?
She took up swimming as rehabilitation and then decided to begin serious training. "Walking with crutches is no easy feat. I needed to maintain my body weight with strong hands and mobility. That's when I started looking for a sports rehabilitation environment and I found the Ilan [Sport Center in Haifa], an organisation that is designed for just that and encourages sports for children with impairments. I started doing hydrotherapy, and actually learned to swim for the second time in my life, but in a completely different way. Until my injury I had never trained professionally. Jacob Beninson, who was a young coach at the club at the time, selected me for the swimming team and, as they say, the rest is history."
Club / Team
Ilan Sport Center: Haifa, ISR
Name of coach
Jacob Beninson [national], ISR
Training Regime
She trains at the Ilan Sport Center in Haifa, Israel under coach Jacob Beninson, with a group of eight that includes fellow Israeli Para swimmers Mark Malyar, Ariel Malyar, Ami Omer Dadaon, Iyad Shalabi, Bashar Halabi, Yulia Gordiychuk and Veronika Guirenko.
Senior International Debut
Year
2009
Competing for
Israel
General Interest
Most influential person in career
Her family. (ynet.co.il, 06 Sep 2016)
Hero / Idol
Israeli Para swimming coach Jacob Beninson, Israeli Para swimmer Inbal Pizarro. (emeknews.co.il, 20 Sep 2020; ynet.co.il, 06 Sep 2016)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"The pool and water have become my free place, the place where I can feel free, to reconnect with the changing abilities of my body. Over time water has also become a challenging, competitive place, the place where I can prove to myself every day that I am worthy and able to work hard, persevere and achieve my end goal to prove to myself that I am an athlete." (emeknews.co.il, 20 Sep 2020)
Ambitions
To compete at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (Instagram profile, 27 Mar 2021)
Impairment
At age 11 she contracted an autoimmune condition which resulted in paralysis. She was initially paralysed from the neck down, but after a year she was able to regain some feeling and learnt to walk with the assistance of crutches. "I was a completely normal girl. I participated in drama, basketball and ballet class. One day I caught a cold, a normal kind of fever. But very quickly the condition deteriorated. One moment I just felt unwell at home, and the next I was hospitalised in intensive care. Very quickly I started rehabilitation in the paediatric rehabilitation department. There was a significant improvement and I was able to regain a lot of functions but, after four months in rehabilitation, I realised that my injury would be permanent." (ynet.co.il, 06 Sep 2016; haaretz.com, 05 Jul 2011)
Other information
EARLY STRUGGLES
She has said that swimming helped her overcome mental health issues associated with her acquired impairment at age 11. "At the age of 11 I found myself struggling with rehabilitation and for my independence in things that had been easy before, like dressing alone. I suffered from a negative body image and low self-esteem, and it took a long time until I was content with who I was. What I have learned is that while there is a disability that sometimes limits me, beyond that I must not let anyone and, especially no fear rumbling within me, limit me. I am the one who chooses who I want to be. I create opportunities to realise my dreams and I'm worth no less than anyone else. Every one of us deserves to be in a good place, a place where we are strong and safe. It is clear that swimming and sports played a big part in this whole process for me." (israelhayom.co.il, 25 Nov 2020; emeknews.co.il, 20 Sep 2020)

FEMALE AMBASSADOR
She is an ambassador for Athena, an Israeli government organisation for the promotion of women in sport, and often speaks to girls in schools about body image and sport. "I think swimmers are super beautiful and super sexy. From the moment I started on crutches I had a lot of muscles. All my friends danced ballet, and I had muscles because of the crutches and because I was a swimmer. I won't lie, this caused me to ask a lot of questions about myself growing up. But I felt that muscles made me strong and beautiful and protected me, and today I love how I look. I think a lot of athletes, especially young women, are troubled by this body image. I lecture through the Athena project to groups of girls in schools, and this topic always comes up." (Instagram profile, 27 Mar 2021; davar.co.il, 15 Sep 2019)

NAVY SERVICE
She served in the Israeli Navy as part of her military service. She also volunteered to serve in an intelligence unit in the Israeli Defence Forces. "There was no chance that I would miss my military service. I come from a community where everyone serves in elite units. I grew up with these values, and that also contributed greatly to my life." (emeknews.co.il, 19 Sep 2020; ynet.co.il, 06 Sep 2016)

TOKYO ENGAGEMENT RETHINK
Her partner Ori Pearl had planned to propose to her in Tokyo at the 2020 Paralympic Games. After the Games were postponed, he decided to wait until her 30th birthday in January 2021 to propose instead. (Facebook page, 30 Mar 2021; Instagram profile, 27 Mar 2021)

Competition Highlights (historical)
Paralympic Games (Overall)
Rank Year Event Result
Heats 2012 100m Freestyle S7 1:19.71
Heats 2012 50m Freestyle S7 38.30
Heats 2012 400m Freestyle S7 5:48.43
Heats 2016 50m Freestyle S7 38.41
7 2016 4 x 50m Freestyle Relay 20 Points  DSQ
8 2016 400m Freestyle S7 5:51.05
10 2016 100m Freestyle S7 1:21.56 
7 2021 400m Freestyle S7 5:44.97
6 2021 100m Backstroke S7 1:40.68
13 2021 100m Freestyle S7 1:20.08
World Championships
Rank Year Event Result
10 2010 50m Freestyle S7 38.22
11 2010 100m Freestyle S7 1:22.74
5 2013 400m Freestyle S7 5:47.60
Heats 2013 50m Freestyle S7 37.46
5 2013 100m Freestyle S7 1:19.75
7 2015 100m Freestyle S7 1:21.81
Heats 2015 4 x 50m Freestyle Relay 20 Points  
6 2015 400m Freestyle S7 5:55.79
7 2015 50m Freestyle S7 37.20
8 2019 400m Freestyle S7 5:47.50
Heats 2019 100m Freestyle S7 1:19.92
European Championships
Rank Year Event Result
4 2014 400m Freestyle S7 5:47.36
5 2014 50m Freestyle S7 37.50
6 2014 100m Freestyle S7 1:20.81
10 2016 50m Butterfly S7 1:01.42
5 2016 400m Freestyle S7 5:55.23
7 2016 4 x 50m Freestyle Relay 20 Points 3:03.56
5 2016 100m Freestyle S7 1:23.08
3 2016 50m Freestyle S7 37.77
6 2018 50m Freestyle S7 37.69
6 2018 100m Freestyle S7 1:21.01
3 2018 400m Freestyle S7 5:56.28
2 2021 400m Freestyle S7 5:38.24
4 2021 100m Freestyle S7 1:18.13