Considered one of the greatest swimmers in Israel's history, Urbach has competed in the last two Olympiads. At the age of 18, Urbach competed at the 1996 Atlanta Games, and swam in two events. In the 100-meter backstroke, he finished first in his preliminary heat (56.74), but did not advance to the finals (he missed qualifying for the consolation final by 0.39 seconds). Urbach officially finished 22nd in the competition.
In Atlanta, Urbach was also a member of Israel's 4x100 meter medley relay team (Urbach, breaststroker Vadim Alexeev, backstroker Yoav Bruck, and butterfly specialist Dan Kutler) which reached the finals after finishing fourth in their preliminary heat (3:42.24). It was the first time an Israeli swimming team had made an Olympic final, and they finished eighth overall with a time of 3:42.90.
At the 2000 Sydney Games, Urbach returned to the Olympics stronger than ever and became the first Israeli swimmer to qualify for the finals in an individual event. In the semifinals of the 100-meter backstroke, he set an Israeli record with a time of 55.31, and qualified for the finals; he finished in eighth place with a time of 55.74. Urbach also helped break the national record in the 4x100 freestyle relay (3:22.06), finishing in 14th place, and was a member of the 4x100-meter medley relay (3:43.39) which finished fifth in the preliminary heat, and 17th overall.
Urbach first attracted international attention in 1994 when he was ranked No. 81 in the world in the 200-meter backstroke (2:04.41) at the age of 17. After helping the Israeli 4x100-meter medley relay team finish in sixth place at the 1995 European Championships, he had a successful trip to the Atlanta Olympics. In the fall of 1996, he began swimming at Auburn University, and the following spring, he finished eighth in the 200-meter backstroke at the NCAA Championship. In 1997, Urbach won the silver medal in the 100-meter backstroke (55.88) at the European Championships, and shared Israel's Sportsman of the Year award with fellow swimmer (and Auburn alumnus), Yoav Bruck.
Urbach continued his success in 1998, finishing seventh in the 100-meter backstroke (55.96) at the World Championships. He won the bronze in the same event (55.87) at the 1999 European Championships. He was also a member of the 4x100-meter medley (3:43.48) team which placed eighth at the 2000 European Championships. At the 2001 World Championships, Urbach competed in the 50-meter and 100-meter backstroke events; he finished 26th in the preliminaries of the 50-meter and 16th in the 100-meter, and did not advance to the semifinals in either event.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Jan. 12, 1977
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Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)