Windsurfer put's Israel on the map

By Simon Griver, August 21, 2008

Israel's Shahar Zubari won bronze in the RS:X Windsurfing competition in Qingdao.

The 21-year-old from Eilat had gone into the final race in fourth position overall but he held his nerve to finish second and edge out Britain's Nick Dempsey.

"I had butterflies in my stomach before the last race," said Zubari, "but once I got started I was only focused on getting ahead of the field. It went very well tactically and I enjoyed the last part of the race as I knew a medal was guaranteed."

Zubari had been the early front-runner last week, winning two of his first four races. Poor performances at the weekend saw him slip into fifth place with the prospect of a medal drifting over the horizon. But the Israeli rallied to finish first, fourth and then second in his final three races and finish third.

He became only the sixth-ever Israeli to win an Olympic medal after Yael Arad, Oren Smadja and Arik Zeevi (all judo), Michael Kolganov (kayak) and Gal Fridman, who became Israel's first every gold medallist, also in windsurfing in Athens four years ago.

Zubari is in line to receive in the region of £24,000 through bonuses for his podium finish. This will be split between the Israel Olympics Committee with a second boost from the government.

Vered Busquila and Nika Kornitzky just missed out on a medal after finishing fourth in the women's 470 sailing.

There was enormous disappointment in Israel in the overall performance of what was a record-size squad and this was reflected in intense media criticism.

However, speaking from China where he presented Zubari with his bronze medal, Alex Gilady, the Israeli-born International Olympic Committee member felt that the attacks had been too harsh.

"The Israeli press talks as if the Israeli squad should be taken out and shot," he said. "But that's not fair. Most of the current squad did what was expected of them. They set personal records and those who came fourth and fifth lacked a bit of luck.

"We must find a way to make Israeli sportsmen and women mentally stronger to give them that extra edge for London in 2012. The Israeli government must give sport a higher priority. At present it prefers to fund to West Bank settlers and the ultra-orthodox."

Last updated: 2:58pm, August 21 2008