The Story of the Olympics

…was, I assured my friends abroad, the wonder of the games, the fun of the gathering, and the wonder of meeting people from all over the world. Of course, I told my friends, it was easiest for us Israelis – we had no expectations of taking gold, didn’t dream of silver and rarely even thought of bronze. What would come, would come.

I felt that my friends in the States were missing the glory when focusing on the gold…and that held…until Israel took a bronze medal!

Shachar Zubari, a 22-year-old soldier from Eilat, won Israel’s seventh medal in Olympic history but only the first of the Beijing games – when he came from behind to win a bronze in windsurfing. Zubari began the race off Qingdao beach in fourth place. To win a medal, he had to finish the last race at least four places ahead of the three competitors in front of him.

Remarkably, he overcame a horrible beginning in which he returned to the starting line in the erroneous belief that his start had been disqualified. He made up for his delay, ultimately reaching second place in the race and third-place overall, earning the bronze medal. Zubari’s medal is only one Israel is expected to win this year, after many hopefuls have disappointed.

Fellow windsurfer Gal Friedman, from Pardes Hanna, won Israel’s only gold medal ever in the Athens Olympics in 2004. Israel’s Olympic medal history is a short one.

The first came in 1992, in Barcelona, when Yael Arad and Oren Smadja snagged silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Judo. In 1996, Friedman won a bronze for windsurfing inAtlanta, and in 2000, Michael Kolganov won a bronze for kayaking. In 2004, Arik Ze’evi from Bnei Brak won a bronze medal in Judo. But this year, most dramatically, Ze’evi failed to win a medal, his tearful post-match lament being the most newsworthy event of the Olympics here in Israel until, thankfully, Zubari’s come-from-behind windsurfing effort.

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