Gal Fridman given one month to save his Olympic career

Israel Olympic Committee tells gold medalist to construct satisfactory training program or face having his funding withdrawn.

fridman 88 (photo credit: )
fridman 88
(photo credit: )
Gold medalist Gal Fridman's Olympic career was hanging by a thin thread on Monday after he was given a four-week deadline to convince the Israel Olympic Committee to continue financing his sailing. Fridman, who became Israel's first and only Olympic gold medal winner when he won the windsurfing competition at the Athens games in 2004, has performed poorly since then, most recently finishing in 34th place at the World Sailing Championships in Portugal earlier this month. At a meeting with Olympic and sailing officials in Tel Aviv on Monday, Fridman was told to construct a new training program which satisfies his Olympic bosses or face having his funding withdrawn. The ultimatum was handed down by Israel Olympic Committee Chairmen Zvi Varshaviak and Efraim Zinger, and Yehuda Ma'ayan, head of the Israel Yachting Association and acting chairman of the Israel Olympic Committee. "I was in favor of stopping the funding right now," Ma'ayan told The Jerusalem Post. "But the committee decided to give him another month to come up with a new training schedule." Ma'ayan said he is not optimistic Fridman will make a comeback."He [Fridman] says that he still wants to continue to compete, but he is not doing anything to help himself," Ma'ayan said. "If he is not back in shape come September when the committee meets again it will be the end of his career." The windsurfer himself has remained optimistic. "Yehuda Ma'ayan and I are coordinating, and we have clarified to the committee what needs to be done," Fridman told Sport5. When asked if he would be traveling abroad to train, Fridman did not respond, saying he could not reveal that information. "I am relying on him," Varshaviak said. "He has promised to come back to us with a new detailed training schedule, so we will consider it and continue from there." Since 2004, Fridman's successes have been few and far between. In 2005, he won a gold medal in the Israeli cycling championships, and in 2007 he won the Men's Windsurfer New Year International Regatta in Cyprus. His career began to plummet as he struggled to stay on top. At the Neil Pryde World Windsurfing Championships in October of 2006, he placed 19th and did not do well enough to qualify for the medal competition and finished even lower in this year's event. These defeats came as no surprise to Ma'ayan, who said that since Fridman won gold in Athens, he has been struggling to find a place for himself. "When you get to a climax, it's hard to go down after that," he explained. Ma'ayan also pointed out that after the Olympics, the sailing community changed the type of surfboards that were being used in competitions. While other participants started practicing with them immediately after the Olympics, according to Ma'ayan, Fridman waited two years until he began training seriously with the new board. Though he still has an outside chance at qualifying for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the odds are stacked against Fridman, especially since he has not been training and competing consistently. Shahar Tzuberi is in pole position to take the single spot allocated to Israel at the Olympic Neil Pryde competition, finishing in eighth position in this year's World Championships and in sixth place at the European Championships. "It's not mission impossible, but to do it Fridman needs to be training eight hours a day, which he has not been doing," said Ma'ayan. "Before the Olympics in Atlanta and Athens, he was in great shape, but right now he is just not good enough." However fellow sailing champion Udi Gal, who won the bronze medal in the 470 class sailing at this year's World Championships alongside partner Gidi Kliger, still has faith in Fridman's abilities. "He was the best there is, and he still is," Gal said. "He just needs to decide what is the best path for him to get to the top again."