Sinai Says: Feingold making believers out of us

Words truly can not do justice to Israeli rowing champion's courageous comeback, but here’s a go.

Yasmin Feingold 370 (photo credit: Courtesy/Open University)
Yasmin Feingold 370
(photo credit: Courtesy/Open University)
There are inspiring sports stories and then there’s the story of Yasmin Feingold. Words truly can not do justice to Feingold’s courageous comeback, but here’s a go.
After four minutes trapped under the waters of the Yarkon River, Feingold shouldn’t be alive, let alone be the newly-crowned Israel rowing champion.
However, the 22-year-old defied all odds and acts as a constant reminder of the might of the human spirit and the mystical power of sports.
The future seemed to be blindingly bright for Feingold when her life was quite literally turned on its head in May 4, 2009.
The details of her accident still remain unclear, but what is certain is that Feingold found herself trapped under her rowing boat near Namir Bridge in Tel Aviv and spent an extended period of time unable to breath after losing consciousness.
While numerous bystanders saw the overturned boat but refused to enter the polluted water to save Feingold’s life, the then 62-year-old Avi Toibin acted in true bravery and swam to the rower’s rescue.
Toibin pulled Yasmin out of the water, but after spending so long submerged she was taken to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Medical Center in fatal condition.
Within moments, Feingold went from being the Israel Single sculls champion and a soon-to-be student of Aeronautical Engineering at Imperial College London to a helpless person in a hospital bed dependent on life support machines.
It took three days for Feingold to regain the ability to breathe on her own, but her recovery ever since has been nothing short of miraculous.
After another week she was healthy enough to be taken from Ichilov to Levinstein Hospital to begin the long and arduous rehabilitation process in Ra’anana.
Just one month after drowning, Feingold was able to go and meet Toibin who deservedly received the President’s Decoration from Shimon Peres for his valor.
“She looked very nice, she was laughing and everything,” said Toibin at the time, surprised at the progress made by Feingold.
But while simply being alive would have been enough for most people had they endured what Feingold overcame, Yasmin targeted what seemed to be impossible.
Feingold, who initially suffered from both short and long term memory loss, never stopped fighting to return to her rowing boat, believing that she will get back to her pre-accident championship-winning form.
Amazingly, she is almost there.
In October 2010, Feingold and her three Tel Aviv teammates claimed the gold medal at the national championships in the Coxless fours and 11 days ago she recorded another remarkable milestone when she regained her title in the Single sculls, completing the Olympic length 2,000-meter course in 8:35.11 minutes.
“I’m not as good as I was before the accident, but I hope that I will be soon, if not even better,” Feingold said in an interview to Channel 10 last week.
“I’ve still got some technical issues with my rowing and I’m not as fit as I was before. I’m also more easily distracted than I used to be.”
Despite her extraordinary triumph over adversity, Feingold is clearly still far from content.
“I always believe you can improve,” she said. “If it is possible to do more then why not try and do it. My brain was damaged, but we are working on getting it back to its previous capabilities. We’re not quite there, but we are on the way. I’m really happy to have proven all the doubters wrong.”
After once more being crowned Israel champion, Feingold can finally rest on her laurels.
But it is quite clear by now that there’s no chance of that happening.
The 2012 London Olympics will come too soon for Feingold, but she has every intention of reaching the 2016 Rio Games.
On the face of it that seems pretty unlikely. She is still far from the level needed to compete for qualification for the Olympics and perhaps that is just one dream too far.
But you try telling that to Feingold.
After all, she has already achieved the impossible.
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