As he lay in his hospital bed with both his legs wrapped in thick plaster, Maor Ben-Harosh thought his sailing dream had come to an end.
Ben-Harosh was earmarked as a future Olympian after a promising start to his youth career as a laser radial sailor.
But all his hopes and aspirations looked to have ended with a thunderous thud in February 2016.
Ben-Harosh was intentionally run over with a car after getting into a verbal squabble with another teenager during a party.
He was making his way home on an electric bike when the older brother of one of the boys Ben-Harosh had argued with slammed into him, smashing both his legs.
The next thing Ben-Harosh remembered was waking up in the hospital where he soon understood the gravity of his injuries. He underwent surgery for over five hours in an effort to save his legs and doctors said it would take him years to walk again, not to mention return to competition.
“The sky has fallen down on Maor,” said his father Udi at the time.
“He sacrificed everything for his career and his future was so bright. It has all been ruined in one second.”
Two years ago, Ben-Harosh claimed a silver medal in the under- 17 European Championships in Portugal, which came on the back of numerous medals in other international events. Ben-Harosh was also crowned as the national champion in his age group three years in a row.
The Laser Radial is a small sailing dinghy, originally built by Laser Performance.
It is a singlehanded boat, meaning that it is sailed by one person. The Summer Olympics include a Laser Radial competition for women, with the men competing in a similar design of the dinghy simply named Laser.
Ben-Harosh was due to make the switch when he joined the senior circuit, but that seemed like a farfetched fantasy 17 months ago as he couldn’t even stand on his feet.
But Ben-Harosh never lost hope.
In fact, he made a comeback that was nothing short of remarkable.
Less than three months after the incident, Ben-Harosh, who is now 18-years-old, was back competing, finishing fifth in an event at his hometown of Nahariya.
“He’s really eager and motivated and we need to try and slow him down,” said Udi. “He has forgotten about everything that happened and is racing ahead.”
It did take Maor a little longer to return to his best, but he finally looks to be nearing top form this summer.
He ended the youth laser radial event at the prestigious Kiel Regatta in Germany in June in an impressive second place and just missed out on a medal at the under-19 European Championships two weeks ago.
Ben-Harosh finished in fifth place in Gdynia, Poland, the second-best result for an Israeli at the event after Shahar Ya’akov’s silver medal in 2009.
“Maor’s goal was to finish in the top five and he achieved that,” said laser radial national team coach Nufar Edelman, who sailed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
“Of course we are slightly disappointed as he was so close to a medal, but nevertheless we are really pleased. Maor showed he belongs with the best sailors in the world.”
Edelman credited his family and his coach in Nahariya, Gal Klarfeld, for getting Maor back on track and supporting him when all seemed lost.
“This is an especially emotional moment after all that has happened to Maor,” she added. “The conditions were difficult, but he competed with strong rivals and displayed a high level of performance.
He managed to recover from his injuries due to his determination and commitment and thanks to those attributes he has also registered this success which he truly deserves.”
There was further closure for Ben-Harosh three months ago, with his attacker being sent to prison.
Nir Gafurov was handed a four-year sentence, pleading guilty to the charges after initially claiming the ramming was an accident.
He was charged with aggravated assault and a hit-and-run, and Judge Esperanza Alon explained that his punishment needs to be between three and five years in prison.
“We need to put words into action to stress the severity of the act,” she said.
“In his actions, the defendant used his vehicle with deliberate intention as a weapon in order to run over two young 17-year-olds who wanted to spend time with their peers and steer clear of trouble.
The hit-and-run offense is a very serious felony indicative of blatant disregard to human life and the defendant’s level of threat.”
Three of Israel’s nine Olympic medals have come at sea, but those were all won by windsurfers. Blueand- white representatives have also achieved plenty of success in the 470 Class, which is a double-handed dinghy for two people.
That has not been the case in the Laser or Laser Radial, something which Ben-Harosh has set out to change.
The Tokyo 2020 Games might come too soon for Ben-Harosh, especially after the setback he suffered, but don’t try telling him that.
While he also has the 2024 Games in his sights, Ben-Harosh is determined to already make his Olympic debut in Tokyo. Considering what he has already been through in his quest for Olympic glory, it is hard to bet against firstname.lastname@example.org