LONDON – Barring any miracles in the next five days, Israel is going to end an Olympic Games without a medal for the first time in 20 years after Lee Korzits could only manage a sixth-place overall finish in the women’s windsurfing competition at London 2012 on Tuesday.
Korzits entered the Games as Israel’s best medal hope after winning two straight World Championships and lived up to the expectations by maintaining a place in the top three of the event in Weymouth for the first seven days of the competition.
However, a disappointing display in her two races on Sunday saw her lose valuable ground to the chasing pack and Korzits dropped four spots all the way to sixth on Tuesday after ending the medal race in ninth position (out of 10 racers).
Korzits had overcome two neardeath experiences to reach her second Olympics, but the three-time World Champion now must be wondering if she will ever have another chance to scale the podium in the biggest stage of all.
“I didn’t win a medal and that is a failure,” said a dejected Korzits. “It is especially a failure as I was in the top three all week. You need to know how to cope with failures in sports. I have overcome far more difficult stuff in life, but this is still tough.”
Since judoka Yael Arad won Israel’s first Olympic medal at the 1992 Barcelona Games, the Israeli delegation has returned from each Olympics with at least one medal.
However, with Korzits failing to finish in the top three and Israel’s remaining representatives in the sailing, rhythmic gymnastics and marathon not having a realistic chance at winning a medal, the streak is all but certain to end.
Korzits was never really in contention on Tuesday, only reaching the first mark in eighth place of the 10 surfers contesting the medal race and dropping to 10th by the second mark.
The 28-year-old moved up one place to ninth by the fourth mark, but could not climb any higher and was in tears after crossing the finish line.
“The wind was very tricky today,” she said. “I didn’t get off to a good start and it was very tough to come back from that. I woke up this morning and told myself I deserve this medal because I had worked so hard all week.
“To lose it at the last moment is hard, but that is life and there are more important things, like being a good friend and I’m happy for Marina Alabau who won the gold. I think that being a good person also merits a medal.
“I’m really sorry for letting everyone down. I did my best and it is a shame another Israeli athlete has failed.
“However, I’m still proud to be holding the flag and sixth place is a respectable enough position for me to hold up the flag proudly and say that I love my country.
“I hope that everyone will still love me even though I failed.”
With windsurfing set to be replaced by kitesurfing in Rio 2016, these may well have been Korzits’s final Olympics.
She has yet to make a decision on her future and had only one thing on mind after Tuesday’s heartbreak.
“Now I’m going to Hawaii to relax and do some surfing,” said Korzits, finally with a smile to her face.
Sailing association head coach, Gur Steinberg, had no complaints to Korzits, saying that it was the conditions which ultimately decided the competition.
“Like in Races 9 and 10, today the wind was once more not suited to Korzits’s style and that is what made the difference,” Steinberg said. “I have a lot of respect for Korzits, she was ready and gave her all. But ultimately, the last three races all took part in conditions in which Korzits is not as good and that was decisive.”
Gidi Kliger and Eran Sela ended the men’s 470 Class sailing competition in a humbling 15th place on Tuesday.
The duo was hoping to challenge for a medal, but only finished two of the 10 races in Weymouth in the top 10.
The women’s 470 Class team of Gil Cohen and Vered Bouskila will contest Races 9 and 10 on Wednesday, looking to climb into the top 10 from their current position at 16th.
On Thursday, Israel’s representatives in the rhythmic gymnastics competitions get their Olympics started.
Neta Rivkin will perform in the individual all-around qualification while Israel’s team will take part in the group qualification.