Leibovitch is considered the greatest Israeli Paralympic athlete of all time. Her athletic ability, natural charisma and willingness to use the media astutely, have made the swimmer a spokesperson for disabled athletes in Israel and a major celebrity in the country. The Israeli swimmer was not born disabled, but was injured during her service in the Israel Defense Forces, while training to be an officer. Karen was an avid swimmer as a youngster and had no intention of quitting because of the partial paralysis in her legs.
Karen is a three time World Champion, a five time European Champion, a world record holder and a six-time Paralympic medal winner.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. July 25, 1973
Leibovitch won two World Championships (S8 disability class) before coming to the attention of the general Israeli public. However, the Israeli swimmer attained national stardom with her performance in the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. Karen won gold in the 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter freestyle and 50-meter freestyle events.
Karen was among the favorites in the 2002 Mar del Plata and won several gold medals. Her intensive training at Emek Hefer under trainer Yossef Maimon had paid off and her form remained top notch. During the Paralympic interim, Leibovitch acquired new and larger sponsorships after an earlier dearth and was able to invest more time in swimming.
In the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, Leibovitch brought home the first Israeli medal of the competition. In the 100-meter freestyle final she pushed American Jessica Long hard until the very end but came up with the silver (32:11). In the 200-meter freestyle Karen won the bronze (3:03.38). Leibovitch really came into her own in the strongest event in her repertoire, the 100-meter backstroke. Having qualified with the best time overall, the Israeli swimmer led from the very start and captured to gold (1:19.55).
Tel Aviv, Israel