Yarden Gerbi: Bronze medalist, heart of gold

Yarden is the epitome of feminine strength, but she’s got this gentle, loving and generous nature.

By VARDA MEYERS-EPSTEIN
August 25, 2016 15:35
3 minute read.
WHILE IT wasn’t a shock for Yarden Gerbi to win an Olympic medal, the valiant manner in which she ra

WHILE IT wasn’t a shock for Yarden Gerbi to win an Olympic medal, the valiant manner in which she rallied back from a tough quarterfinal loss for bronze on Tuesday night is a lesson in determination and perserverence that any athlete can learn from.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Yarden Gerbi, the 27-year-old Israeli judoka, won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics on August 9. Yarden, and Ori Sasson, the other Olympic judo champ, returned to Israel triumphant and were met by a crowd of hundreds of adoring Israelis. But the moment Gerbi won our hearts was somewhere between those two points in time.

It was when she leapt into the stands, all sweaty and victorious, to randomly hug audience members holding her country’s flag. And still, that’s not the only or even main reason we love her. There’s the judo, for one thing. (Did you know that the word judo means “The gentle way?”)

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That pretty much sums it up. Yarden is the epitome of feminine strength, but she’s got this gentle, loving and generous nature. Just how generous? Generous enough that she’s auctioning off her Olympic back number to help kids with cancer. And it’s not the first time she’s done that.

She did it three years ago after winning the World Championship. The special back number she received for that match snagged $3,800. All of that money went to the oncology ward at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital.

Think about that: you win this big-deal match, but instead of keeping your number as a keepsake to display on the wall of your den, or to show your children and your grandchildren, you auction it off to help sick kids, never to see it again. And it doesn’t matter, because you’ve done something more beautiful, more tangible than winning a match or showing off a memento.

Is there anything stronger yet gentler than that? She hurts for kids with cancer. She does more than hurt. She puts her (back number) where her mouth is and does something to kick cancer’s butt (just as she kicked her opponent’s butt).

And now she’s doing it with her Rio Olympics back number. Unreal. Imagine giving up that keepsake!

Read what Yarden said about this in her own words:

“Three years ago, when I won the World Championship, I auctioned the special back number I was awarded with the title of world champion. The winner of the back number was Tal Keidar, and together we managed to raise $3,800, all of which was donated to the children’s oncology ward of Ichilov Hospital.

“I decided to auction my signed Rio Olympic back number [the auction will close on the 29th of August]. In addition, if the winner of the back number is Israeli [the auction is open worldwide] I will gladly hand over the item personally.

“Once again, all the money raised will go directly to the same ward in Ichilov – child cancer patients.


“I don’t know how much money I will raise, but I know that any amount will help.

“When I visited the ward with Professor Bickles I met amazing kids who are heroes, doing their best to fight and keep high spirits.

I recently found out that Liran Or, a sweet and loving girl with whom I was in contact with, had passed away. That’s the reason I decided to donate to the same ward.

“Please, share the link and spread the word about the auction. And most importantly, keep healthy.”

At the time of this writing, the bidding (on Ebay) has reached, $13,900 – more than three-and-a-half times the amount she raised with her World Championship back number. The best part: there’s almost four days left to bid!

You know, it’s kind of funny. Yarden speaks of kids with cancer as heroes. That’s certainly true. They are heroes. Heroes and warriors. But it seems to me that Yarden herself is no slouch. She’s a big-time warrior and heroine. Both on and off the tatame.

As someone who works for a nonprofit organization that helps children (Kars4Kids), this story really touched my heart. But then, charity is a big deal in Israel. True fact: Israel’s private giving is 1.34% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and comes in second only to the United States, which according to John Hopkins University stands at 1.85% of its GDP.

Now compare that to Japan at 0.22% or Germany at 0.13% and you can see that’s a pretty big deal.

Yarden Gerbi? She just kicked butt in Rio and won an Olympic bronze medal, for sure. But as we can see, she already has a heart of gold.

The author is a communications writer at Kars4Kids, a Guidestar gold medal charity.

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