Israel wins first Olympic gold
By BERNIE WILSON, AP Sports Writer
August 25, 2004
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A windsurfer whose first name means “wave” in Hebrew gave Israel its first Olympic gold medal ever Wednesday, taking a plunge in the Saronic Gulf to celebrate.
Gal Fridman sailed a remarkably consistent regatta, never finishing worse than eighth in the 11-race series. He placed second in Wednesday’s decisive race.
After Fridman crossed the finish line, he took a victory dip and then wrapped himself in an Israeli flag when he came out of the water.
Fridman’s victory finally gives Israelis the chance to hear their national anthem during a medal ceremony, scheduled for later in the day. The song is “Hatikvah” — The Hope — and Israeli fans sang it spontaneously last week when Ariel Zeevi won a bronze medal in judo.
There has been tremendous pressure on Israeli athletes to get their country’s first gold at the Athens Games. When Zeevi won his medal, he called it “the hardest day of my life” because of the scrutiny.
In 12 previous Olympics dating to 1952, Israel had won only one silver and three bronze medals. Fridman won a bronze in his event in 1996.
Until Wednesday, its Olympic legacy was primarily somber — political complications, occasional snubs by athletes from Islamic countries and, overshadowing all else, the killing of 11 athletes and coaches who were seized by a Palestinian terrorist group called Black September at the 1972 Games in Munich.
This is pretty cool. It is one of the things I like about the Olympics, a chance for a small country to stand tall.