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Beijing Olympics Bronze Medal Priceless to Israel
    2008-08-23 04:21:56     Xinhua

by Xu Gang 

The state of Israel was galvanized when its windsurfer Shahar Zubari raised his hands triumphantly after being awarded an Olympic bronze medal on Wednesday by Israeli International Olympic Committee member Alex Gilady.

Zubari, who was considered one of the Israeli Olympic delegation's best hopes for a medal, won the bronze medal of the men's RS:X at the Beijing Olympic Sailing Regatta, Israel's first medal at Beijing Olympics.

"We are very happy about Zubari's medal and proud of him," Michal Shahaf, spokesperson of the Olympic Committee of Israel ( OCI), who is currently in Beijing, told Xinhua Friday in a telephone interview, adding that it is almost certain that this will be the only medal Israeli Olympic delegation wins at Beijing Olympics.

Before Zubari's medal, some prominent Israeli athletes, who had been pinned much hope on getting a medal, failed to make it, which exerted a lot of pressure on the young windsurfer.

"It was very difficult work. I'm very happy with the accomplishment," Zubari told Israel's Channel 1 after winning the medal, adding that there was a lot of support from Israel.

As for the 21-year-old windsurfer, who will turn 22 on Sept. 1, the medal is doubtlessly a priceless birthday present. In addition, it is also a splendid gift to his country, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

The Jewish state also relished the precious gain. Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert both called Wednesday to congratulate Zubari on his achievement.

"You've made us so happy. I've been following you all of these ten days. I was constantly impressed by your cool demeanor, your level headedness, and your self-confidence - your feeling that you conveyed to us that you will end up bringing a medal," Olmert was quoted by local media as saying.

"You have no idea how exciting it is," the prime minister continued. "I'm looking at you now through the TV and see you holding the (Israeli) flag. There are lots of tears of joy now in the eyes of Israelis. Your future is ahead of you."

Zubari's family was ecstatic at Zubari's victory.

"It's a great joy. Every member of the family except for Zubari was here at home watching the race. He was on a roll when he began and he took it all the way," Zubari's mother told Israel Radio from her home in Eilat, a city in southern Israel.

This is Israel's seventh Olympic medal, and Zubari is the sixth Olympic medalist in Israeli history. In the past, the Jewish state won six Olympic medals, including a gold, a silver and four bronze medals.

Thanks to Zubari's medal, the Israeli Olympic delegation avoided the awkwardness of coming back home empty-handed. However, Shahaf told Xinhua that "we are somewhat disappointed, because we have been expecting better results."

Despite that, Secretary General of OCI Efraim Zinger and the director of Israel's Elite Sport Department, Gili Lostig, told local media Thursday that when looking at the overall picture, the delegation performed as expected at Beijing Olympics.

"The most important fact is that for the fifth consecutive Olympics we have maintained our place in the very prestigious club of medal winning nations," Zinger said.

It may have been much tougher this time due to the improvement of the Asian athletes, and especially China, but Israel once more met this goal, added the secretary general.

Lostig noted that some 23 of the 43 Israeli athletes participating in Beijing Olympics are under 23-years-old, calling it an amazing fact.

"This means we have a young group of sportsmen which is replacing the older generation and this group will blossom in London 2012 (Olympic Games)," said Lostig.

 
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