It would appear that the ONE "Israeli" Gold Medal winner in more than
half a century is an ARAB, not a jew.
a.m. PT, Wed.,
Aug 25, 2004
ATHENS, Greece - 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
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
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.
Two other members of Fridman’s sailing club had a chance to win a
medal in doubles at Seoul in 1988, ranking second heading into the final
day of competition. They didn’t compete because it was Yom Kippur, the
most holy day of the year for Jews.
Fridman’s victory came after Ricardo Santos of Brazil, the leader
through 10 races, finished 17th in the finale. Nikolaos Kaklamanakis of
Greece won the silver, and Nick Dempsey of Britain took the bronze.
Faustine Merret of France won the gold in the women’s race. Yin
Jian of China won the silver, and Alessandra Sensini of Italy got the
After a tough day sailing in light, shifty wind, the U.S. Tornado
crew of John Lovell and Charlie Ogletree dropped from first to second
after finishing sixth and seventh. They trail defending gold medalists
Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher of Austria by seven points with
three races to go.
On the Star course, Americans Paul Cayard and Phil Trinter rode a
wind shift in making a spectacular comeback to win the day’s first race,
but then finished 15th. They remain in third place with 42 points.
Brazil’s Torben Grael continued to build his lead, finishing second and
seventh for a total of 20 points with three races left. Canada’s Ross
MacDonald and Mike Wolfs are second with 39.2 points.
'The Maccabiah belongs not only to all the Jews, but also to all the
Israelis, and I am a proud Israeli,' father of teen swimmer, 200-meter
breastroke champ says
By Avinoam Porat
TEL AVIV -
An Israeli Arab teenage girl from the town of Sakhnin became one of the
first medalists in this year's Maccabiah Games with a victory in the
women's 200-meter breastroke in the Wingate Institute pool, causing a
wave of pride in her father, family and community.
Halaj Shahada, proud father of Asala, 17, said there would be
celebrations in Sakhnin following her gold medal win.
“The Maccabiah belongs not only to all the Jews, but also to all the
Israelis, and I am a proud Israeli,” Asala said
The Arab Israeli town of Sakhnin has known many sporting celebrations,
but up until now all of them were connected with soccer: last year’s win
of the national cup, this year’s success in surviving the premier
league, the vital goal scored by Abbas Suwan for the national squad in
World Cup play, and Suwan’s decision to stay in Sakhnin and not “defect”
to Maccabi Haifa.
Asala’s little brother, Jamal, plays in the children’s soccer team of
Bnei Sakhnin, and her old brother, Avar, is in the youth squad.
“But with all respect to the soccer team, which we all support, today is
Sakhnin’s swimming day,” said Sharada, who arrived at the Maccabiah
games with his wife, Hanna, and other relatives.
It's true that the Maccabiah record for the 200-meter breast stroke, set
16 years ago, belongs to the U.S.’s Larot Gradotzky, but this does not
detract from Asala’s accomplishment.
Gradotzky swam the distance in an outstanding time of 2:40.26, whereas
Asala did it in 2:46.93 after a close battle with Lauren Fox (USA), who
trailed behind by 21 hundreths of a second.
Hard worker gets her
The Maccabiah, often called the “Jewish Olympics,” are open to Jewish
athletes from around the world, and to all Israeli citizens - whatever
Asala, who learned to swim in a cistern at the age of 7, trains today at
“She works so hard. Finally she has had a happy day,” her father said.
Asala Shahada’s gold medal is another accomplishment in a chain of Arab
sporting successes in Israel.
Other examples are Da’a Masrava from Taibeh, who swims for her town’s
breastroke youth team, and Doa Saliman-Hativ of Nazareth, who only last
week seized a double win in Israel’s Track and Field national