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
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
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
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
“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 email@example.com Follow Allon Sinai on Twitter: @AllonSinai