No 3. Gal Fridman

Gal Fridman, the Mistral Windsurfer who won Israel's first Olympic gold medal, has helped advance his sport in the eyes of Israel and the world.

By GAL TZIPERMAN LOTAN
May 5, 2008 03:36
2 minute read.
No 3. Gal Fridman

israel olympics 298. (photo credit: AP)

Gal Fridman, the Mistral Windsurfer who won Israel's first Olympic gold medal, has helped advance his sport in the eyes of Israel and the world. "I started sailing at a very young age, my father sailed and he'd take us to the ocean with the board," Fridman said. A natural talent, Fridman entered his first international contest at the age of 13. "I started sailing and improving, and I realized that I was good, and it attracted me to a league competition," Fridman said. He began capturing the field's attention when he won silver medals in both the European and World Championships in 1995 and 1996. Fridman brought home a bronze medal from the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, his first ever Olympic competition. "I was young, it was relaxed, and I advanced very quickly during that time, and achieved a lot of things," Fridman said. But he was not satisfied. "Of course, after that, I wanted to be a world champion," he said. From 1997 to 1999, Fridman came down with Mononucleosis and could not get back into shape in time for the Sydney Olympics in 2000. "It was on and off, and I could not get into good enough shape. So I took a break," Fridman said. Despite the setback, Fridman followed with a string of victories. He won the bronze in the 2001 European Championships, and in 2002 was crowned world champion for the first and only time in his career. All this lead up to the 2004 Athens Olympics, where Fridman gave Israel its first Olympic gold. "Everything went more or less according to plan," Fridman said. "I came with good energies, loved the team, and was well prepared, in good physical shape." Fridman placed fifth or higher in eight of the event's 11 races, including two first place finishes, and was never lower than eighth. He dedicated his medal to the 11 members of the Israeli delegation killed in the 1972 Munich Olympics. "We have to remember them at every Olympics. The Olympics are supposed to be a time of peace between nations, and what happened in Munich is unheard of," Fridman said. Since his victory, Mistral windsurfer sailing has become more popular, he said. "The field has grown, there are more representatives, the facilities have grown, especially after my first [Olympic] medal in 1996," Fridman said. "The Ministry of Education gave a lot of money to the clubs and developed the sport through schools." Today, Fridman competes in biking as an amateur in Israel after spending time in the Jewish communities of Australia, Europe and the United States. To the Israeli athletes going to Beijing this summer, he advises to "Do what they know, and good luck."


Related Content

dudi sela
August 31, 2014
Sela steamrolled by Dimitrov

By ALLON SINAI