Sporting Heroes for 60 Years: No. 6 Yael Arad

When the history books of Israeli sport are written many Independence Days from now, the name of Yael Arad will be one of the most seminal.

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May 1, 2008 00:55
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When the history books of Israeli sport are written many Independence Days from now, the name of Yael Arad will be one of the most seminal. In 1992 she earned the country its first Olympic medal, and added a positive memory to a competition that had been scarred by the tragedy of the Munich massacre of 1972. Hanging on the tails of her older brother's judogi, Yael Arad started attending judo classes at the age of eight. She had no one else in her weight class to practice with, so her teacher made a more than ample substitute. Judo was an unknown and undeveloped sport in Israel when Arad was growing up in the '70s, which proved a blessing and a curse. The lack of an equal partner forced her to train against people with much more experience, but the lack of proper funding eventually led to her leaving for Japan to seek expert training. This was a formative period in her learning and winning her first international title in a middleweight competition in 1984 showed that it was paying dividends. At the Barcelona Olympics of 1992, Arad's ever increasing standing in the world of judo came to fruition when she won the silver medal in the half middleweight and instantly became a national hero. She was unlucky not to leave with the gold, but, poignantly, she dedicated her medal to the memory of those Israeli athletes who were murdered in 1972 by Palestinian terrorists. Tomorrow: One of the great track and field stars of the '70s


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