Noam Gershony wins Israel's first Paralympics gold

Gershony defeats top-ranked American David Wagner 6-3, 6-1 in the Quad wheelchair tennis finals.

Noam Gershony 370 (photo credit: Razi Livnat)
Noam Gershony 370
(photo credit: Razi Livnat)
Six years after almost losing his life during the 2006 Lebanon War, Noam Gershony scaled the top of the Paralympic podium in London on Saturday, winning the gold medal in the Quad wheelchair tennis tournament.
The 29-year-old suffered severe injuries when his Apache helicopter crashed to the ground near Ramot Naftali after a collision with another IDF helicopter.
Gershony and co-pilot Ran Yehoshua Kochva were making their way towards the Lebanese border to assist IDF troops on the ground.
Yehoshua Kochva was killed, while Gershony was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries.
He began a long and arduous recovery process and decided to take up wheelchair tennis.
Gershony won the French Open at Roland Garros earlier this year and quickly rose to become the world’s No. 2 ranked player.
His crowning moment came on Saturday with a 6-3, 6-1 win over world No. 1 David Wagner, becoming the first Israeli to win a Paralympic gold since 2004.
“I can’t put into words how it felt to hear Hatikva and see the flag at the top of the pole,” said Gershony, who couldn’t stop the tears as the national anthem sounded. “I never thought I would have the chance to represent the country and certainly never believed that I would be able to bring it such honor.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called to congratulate Gershony. “I was very emotional when I saw you win,” Netanyahu said. “The state of Israel embraces you on this great achievement. You symbolize the triumph of the human spirit over the difficulties of life.”
President Shimon Peres, who met Gershony before the Paralympics, also spoke with the gold medalist. “You proved that you are as good on court as you are in the sky, talented in the Apache and tennis,” Peres said. “We are very proud of you. This is the best news we could have received this weekend.”
Gershony, who will carry the Israel flag in Sunday’s closing ceremony in London, also won a bronze medal in the doubles tournament with Shraga Weinberg.
Gershony’s gold was Israel’s seventh medal in total at London, but just hours later swimmer Inbal Pezaro took the delegation’s tally to eight, two more than Israel claimed in Beijing four years ago.
Pezaro won her third bronze medal in London when she ended the 100-meter freestyle S5 disability class final in third place in a time of 1:22.56 minutes.
The 25-year-old has now got eight Paralympic medals to her name from three Games.
Besides Pezaro, Gershony and Weinberg, Israel’s other medals in London were won by swimmer Itzhak Mamistvalov, shooter Doron Shaziri and handcyclist Koby Lion.
Like Gershony, Shaziri and Lion are also disabled as a result of their IDF service.
“Gershony and all of the disabled IDF veterans participating in the Paralympics are a testament to the triumph of the spirit over the body,” said Haim Bar, chairman of the Disabled IDF Veterans Organization. “Gershony began playing tennis four and a half years ago and he has shown that even though his body may be hurt his spirit is not.”