“I don’t know what to say. I made history. I did it all for the people of Israel. I am so proud to represent Israel.”
Those were Artem Dolgopyat’s first words after winning a gold medal in the floor exercise in artistic gymnastics. His demeanor was one of modesty and in fact it seemed that he didn’t even know how to react, how to celebrate Israeli’s second ever gold medal at the Olympic games.
Calm and quiet is what Dolgopyat is made of, perhaps even a quiet assassin, calculated and aware of his surroundings when on the mat and the stakes are high.
“I want to thank everyone for their support. I don’t know what to say. I’m still sky high and it’s hard to come back down to reality,”
Throughout his post medal media appearances whether on television, in a press conference or media scrum, Dolgopyat maintained his levelheadedness, his demeanor time and time again. Thanking anyone and everyone, whether it was the people who woke up early to watch him in the qualification round, his coach and his parents, or those who came before him, Dologpyat continued to dole out the gratitude.
One of those gymnasts that paved the way for the 24-year old is Alex Shatilov who is now in the twilight of his career after participating in his fourth Olympic Games.
“I have a tremendous amount of thanks for Alex Shatilov who has accompanied me the entire way. From my arrival in Israel over a decade ago and throughout my career he has been with me. He is like a brother.”
“This past month were together, just me and him. This was one of the best months that I have ever experienced and it’s just too bad that both of us couldn’t advance to the final. I hope that we can continue together and get their one day.”
Shatilov attempted to explain who Dolgopyat really is and what he and his team are made of, “They are great and have made an amazing achievement. We are all still in euphoria, it’s an inconceivable achievement. I keep pinching myself to see if this is just a dream. But finally the dream has come true. We all enjoyed the experience in Tokyo and we weren’t stressed or pressured at all.”
Speaking about stress or pressure, Dolgopyat had to wait over a week between his first place qualifying performance and actually participating in the final, “It wasn’t that simple to wait after the qualification round. Each day that went by made it harder and harder. Finally, it was Saturday and I said to myself, it’s tomorrow, the days went by so fast where did they go?”
When he was asked how he plans to celebrate he responded sheepishly, “I don’t know, this is my first time.”
This is who Artem Dolgopyat is.
“Welcome to the Gold Club,” Gal Fridman, Israel’s first ever Gold Medalist congratulated Dolgopyat while also commenting on his character. “He is an incredible athlete, I love his character and personality; he’s modest, hard working and dedicates himself to his craft.”
Dolgopyat reflected back on his humble beginnings and how he could influence the next generation, “When I saw the gymnasts performing at the age of 6, I fell in love with the sport. Everyone seemed to always be so much bigger than me, but my parents set goals in order for me to know how to continue to climb. They believed in me from day one and said that I would get to the Olympics.”
“The children need to stay modest and all of the future gymnasts should be like that. Most importantly are those who you surround yourself with, who give of themselves and believe in you.”
As for Dolgopyat’s future, his coach Sergi Weissberg knows that the gold medalist is just scratching the surface of his potential, “Artem gave us drama all the way to the last second. After a bit of time he will come back down to earth and we will begin to prepare for Paris 2024. Artem has plenty of room to improve. He can work on other disciplines and master those.”
Dolgopyat himself knows full well that he has the potential to do more, “I can win another medal. It doesn’t matter (if this was an Olympic Gold), just like when I won a medal before this I would forget about. Right now very quickly, I will have to forget about this and begin again anew.”
It’s clear that winning the gold medal won’t change Dolgopyat and when he was queried about how it may alter his life, he quickly deflected the notion that he would be a changed man, “I don’t want all of that noise around me. It will only stress me out. The only thing I am thinking about is how I can bring honor to the country and more medals which is more important than anything.
“I hope that I will continue like this and achieve even more. I hope that I will be able to reach finals in other exercises. I want to remain modest and not think about everything else around me. Just keep working hard and do what I need to do.”