Windsurfer saves Israel’s blushes in Beijing

By Simon Griver, August 15, 2008

Olympics Israeli windsurfer Shahar Zubari has opened up a significant lead in the RS:X windsurfing competition in Qingdao.

In the first four of 11 races, the 21-year-old from Eilat had two wins and two third places. Only a complete collapse of form will deny the Israeli the opportunity of standing on the medal podium after the final race next Wednesday.

The feeling in the Israeli camp is that Zubari will emulate Gal Fridman, who won Israel's first-ever gold medal in the windsurfing event in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

"I cannot remember a competitor starting so strongly in a major world competition," said Gur Steinberg, the head coach of Israel's sailing delegation.

Zubari, who took bronze in the World Championships in New Zealand earlier this year, was cautiously optimistic.

"I feel good and strong and the conditions suit me but there is a long way to go yet," he said.

Zubari looks likely to save the blushes of the record 43 sportsmen and women in the Israeli Olympic squad. Udi Gal and Gidi Kliger, who had been expected to win a medal in the 470 sailing competition, were languishing in 17th place after six races, However, in the women's 470 event, Vered Busquila and Nika Kornitzky, who had not been tipped for a medal, were in fourth position after six races.

There was major disappointment for tennis medal prospects Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich. The third seeds and Australian Open champions crashed out in the first round of the men's doubles 6-4, 6-4 to French duo Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra.

Shahar Peer lost against Russia's Vera Zvonareva in the second round of the ladies' singles after beating Romania's Sorana Cirstea in the first.

Tzipi Obziler, who had received a late call-up into the competition after replacing injured top seed Ana Ivanovic, lost to Mariya Koryttseva of the Ukraine in the first round.

Obziler and Peer also went out in the doubles to Argentina's Gisela Dulko and Betina Jozami.
In the 60kg judo event, Gal Yekutiel just missed out on a bronze medal as he was beaten by Ruben Houkes of the Netherlands.

En route to the medal play-off he enjoyed a victory over Great Britain champion Craig Fallon.

In swimming, there was a plucky performance from Alon Mendel, whose father Kosta was killed last week in a freak domestic accident when he fell off a ladder.

Mendel - who was urged by his mother to compete - finished fourth in his heat of the 200 metres butterfly.

Last updated: 6:50pm, August 14 2008