Sinai Says: Korzits continues to throw caution to the wind

After two near-death experiences, windsurfer Lee Korzits has her sights set on winning an Olympic medal in London next summer.

311_windsurfing (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Two years ago, Lee Korzits was told by doctors that she may never walk again.
Last year, the 27-year-old Israeli windsurfer was 30 seconds away from drowning to death.
This past Sunday, she won a silver medal at the European windsurfing Championships in Burgas, Bulgaria.
After virtually coming out of nowhere to become the youngest ever female winner of a gold medal at the windsurfing World Championships at the age of 19, Korzits all but retired three years ago.
She had grown tired with the arduous nature of her sport and just wanted to enjoy life.
However, an almost fatal surfing accident in Hawaii in April 2009 made her appreciate what she had left behind, and after almost dying in last year’s Europeans, Korzits came a full circle on Sunday when she finished the continental championships in second place.
After moving with her family to Michmoret as a child, it was only a matter of time until she gave windsurfing a shot and her future looked to be extremely bright after her stunning success in the 2003 worlds in Cadiz, Spain.
However, she soon grew frustrated with the life of an Olympic athlete and Korzits was already going through the motions by the time the 2004 Athens Games arrived, ending the event in a relatively disappointing 13th position.
All Korzits wanted was to live a normal life and party with friends and her results really began to suffer following the switch from the Mistral sailboard to the RS:X Neil Pryde model in 2006.
She finished as low as 18th in the Europeans and 49th in the worlds in 2007 and lost out to Ma’ayan Davidovich in the battle to represent Israel at the Beijing Olympics before deciding to take a break.
Korzits flew to a friend in Hawaii and soon joined the Professional Windsurfers Association’s tour. She also took part in extreme surfing events in the Canary Islands and earned a living from selling Dead Sea products and working as a gardener.
Despite making little money, Korzits was enjoying every moment, until everything changed in April 1, 2009.
Korzits was taking part in a photoshoot for one of her sponsors when another surfer rammed into her back.
Korzits broke two ribs and she could barely breathe. She was quickly dragged out of the water, but another massive wave rolled her against the rocks and broke her leg.
She spent two days in intensive care under sedation and was told by doctors that she will be paralyzed and will never be able to surf again.
In what is a testament to Korzits’s unrelenting fighting spirit she independently decided to stop being treated with morphine, and after two torturous days she finally managed to get out of bed, paving the way for her eventual return to Israel.
She spent an entire year rehabilitating, with numerous doctors telling her that regardless of what she does her back will never be able to take the strain of surfing again.
After leaving windsurfing behind to live the good life in Hawaii, Korzits now wanted nothing more that to become an Olympic athlete again and against all odds she would make an almost miraculous recovery.
She slowly but surely strengthened her body and the pain that used to accompany every work out soon faded away.
She ended her first major event back, the Delta Lloyd Regatta in Medemblik, Netherlands, in 14th place in May of last year and she had her sights set on finishing July’s European Championships in the top 12 in order to qualify for the Elite Sport Department’s NIS 3,000 monthly grant.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan until the ninth race of the championships.
A guest American windsurfer crashed into Korzits and the Israeli found herself trapped underwater underneath her sail.
Korzits was stranded and lost consciousness, but fortunately a French coach who was nearby noticed her plight and pulled her onto his boat before resuscitating her.
The 2004 windsurfing Olympic champion, Israeli Gal Fridman, who wasn’t far away in his capacity as the coach of Nimrod Mashiah, said that Korzits would have died had another 30 seconds passed without anyone coming to her rescue.
But Korzits survived, and after taking a silver in Bulgaria earlier this week, is starting to look like one of Israel’s best medal hopes at the London Olympics.
“I started from zero and there weren’t that many people who believed in me,” Korzits said on Tuesday after being handed a NIS 35,000 bonus by the Olympic Committee of Israel.
“I never even thought I would be able to surf again. I was told that I would be paralyzed. I’m very fortunate to be in my current situation.”
Next up for Korzits are December’s World Championships in Perth, Australia, where she can take a big step towards securing her participation at the London Games and move closer to realizing her dream of winning an Olympic medal.
Considering what she’s overcome in recent years, only a fool would bet against her.
Follow Allon Sinai on Twitter: @AllonSinai