Sports: Shahar Zubari: Hope of the nation

Only Gal Fridman won an Olympic medal at a younger age than Zubari.

September 25, 2008 10:22
1 minute read.
Sports: Shahar Zubari: Hope of the nation

Zubari bronze 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

A year ago Shahar Zubari was anonymous, even in sporting circles. His resume includes Under-15 and Under-17 World Championship crowns, but only avid windsurfing fans had come across the 22-year-old's name before this year. What a difference 12 months can make. Zubari's first triumph of the year came in March's World Championships in which he claimed the bronze medal, but it was 10 days in August that propelled him from relative obscurity to a household name. The Eilat-born surfer won the first race of the Neil Pryde windsurfing competition of the Beijing Olympics in Qingdao and never looked back. It seemed that with every day that passed in China another medal favorite from team Israel disappointed, and by the second week of the games Zubari's skinny shoulders carried the hopes of the nation. Pressure is, however, a word which doesn't appear in his lexicon, and despite entering the final race of the competition in fourth position, the surfer recorded the result he needed to win his country's only medal. By winning a medal and ensuring that this summer's Olympics wouldn't go down as the country's worst in 20 years, Zubari secured his place in sporting history books and guaranteed himself celebrity an Olympian can only achieve by winning a medal. Being a windsurfer, however, means that only more extraordinary success will prevent Zubari from returning to his former anonymity, or as Napoleon Bonaparte put it: "Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever." Only Gal Fridman won an Olympic medal at a younger age than Zubari. He was just 21 when he claimed the windsurfing bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Games, and Zubari has much to learn from his counterpart's experiences. Fridman may have claimed the country's only Olympic gold medal to date in 2004, but following his first medal triumph he suffered a dramatic drop in form and failed to qualify for the 2000 Sydney Games. After peaking so young, he struggled to adapt to his new-found stardom and had to wait eight years before he returned to the Olympics. Zubari beat out Fridman for a place in Beijing and after claiming the bronze is quite clearly his successor. His biggest challenge now, however, will be to avoid a repeat of Fridman's mistakes after Atlanta and build on his early success rather than flop as a result of it.

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