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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona swimming’s Bar-Or represents Israel

Briana Sanchez
Briana Sanchez / Arizona Daily Wildcat Free-style swimmer, Senior Nimrod Shapira, cools down after practice on October 29, 2012.

Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or stood perfectly still, phone against his ear, waiting in anticipation, as he awaited the decision.

It was August 2008, just one week from the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Beijing, when the High Court of the Olympic Committee of Israel decided to accept Bar-Or’s national record time of 1:48.76 in the 200m-freestyle.

As a result, Bar-Or was set to replace Max Jaben, an American Israeli who was selected as one of the three swimmers to represent the Jewish state. Jaben had been disqualified from competition after failing a drug test and testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.

Bar-Or now finally felt the eyes of his country looking up to him.

At the age of nineteen, he was about to represent all of Israel in international competition.

“He’s capable of doing something really special,” Arizona head swimming coach Eric Hansen said. “He is a talented swimmer with such great versatility. What he is going to contribute to the team is going to be unfathomable. We’re excited to have him, and feel like we can put him anywhere in order to have him be effective.”

Originally, Bar-Or loved to play basketball, but after being sidelined when he was 11 years old with a knee injury, his sights quickly turned to swimming.

“I’ve been swimming since the age of 11,” Bar-Or explained. “It really helped me strengthen up and recover from my injuries. I fell in love with the sport and have kept going ever since.”

Before boarding the plane to China, Bar-Or’s childhood teammate and high school roommate, Jowan Qupty, heard the news of his friend’s upcoming Olympic debut.

“I was just really happy for him,” Qupty said. “If he puts his mind to it, he is able to accomplish whatever he wants. I really believe that he is capable of great things and will continue to preform well in the foreseeable future.”

Bar-Or and Qupty both grew up in Jerusalem, and despite living in a country that regularly reminded them of their cultural differences, Bar-Or, a Jewish Israeli, was not afraid to befriend Qupty, an Arab Israeli.

“I met Nimrod when I was 13,” Qupty said. “If anything, our cultural differences brought us closer together. We never talked about politics. We both just wanted peace. I have a lot of Jewish friends and a lot of Palestinian friends. We all just want to coexist with each other, and it really is possible.”

The two swam and trained together under the Jerusalem United swim club in Israel before taking separate paths for a couple years.

Bar-Or moved to England in order to train more seriously and the two reunited while attending Bolles High School in Jacksonville, Fla. There, Bar-Or and Qupty became roommates, teammates and best friends.

“We lived together for two years in Florida,” Qupty said. “It was pretty awesome. We won state together for Bolles our junior year.

I learned a lot from swimming beside him. His goals are always set really high and he always believes in himself.”

After their time together at Bolles, Bar-Or came to Arizona, while Qupty went on to swim for the University of Missouri.

“Nimrod was a very good high school swimmer,” Bolles head coach Sergio Lopez Miro said. “His biggest strength is that he doesn’t like to lose, and he never gives up. He is a competitor who will work his hardest to be the best.”

In 2011, Bar-Or returned to Israel for a year to participate in his military service, a requirement for all Israeli citizens, and train for the 2012 Olympics. Bar-Or represented Israel again in London last summer and looks forward to training for his last season as a Wildcat, and beyond that, the 2016 summer olympics in Rio.

“He is never going to cut corners,” Miro said. “I definitely think he could be one of the top ten swimmers in the world. His limitations are completely up to him.”

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