Lee Korzits has been dreaming of an Olympic medal since she was a teenager. At 28, the London Olympics, or Weymouth to be more accurate, is not her last chance of an Olympic medal, but there is a buzz about her that suggests it is going to be her best chance.
She is also Israel’s best hope for a medal. Having won back-to-back gold medals at the last two World Windsurfing Championships, Korzits is clearly in pole position to become the first Israeli woman, and only the second ever, to win an Olympic medal since Yael Arad won a silver in judo in Barcelona in 1992.
“The important thing will be to win a medal,” Korzits said. “I’ll be satisfied if I get to stand on the podium. Gold would be great, but any medal will do.”
The Korzits family has a strong pedigree in water sports, with mum, Michal, a swimming instructor and her father, Sasson, a champion surfer, lifeguard and fisherman. “When I was born my father took me straight from the hospital to the beach and dipped me into the sea. Only then did he take me home. So you see the sea was my first home and I have had the water in my veins ever since.
“As a child I was hyperactive and did not play with dolls like other girls. For me the sea was always my playground. I dived off rocks, but when I got on to a windsurfer, I suddenly felt totally focused.”
Korzits grew up in Hofit and then Michmoret, both on the Mediterranean coast north of Netanya. Her sporting talents were not just restricted to the water and she was later crowned national under- 14 judo champion. Soon after she gave that up to concentrate on sailing and then windsurfing. By 19 she had won the World Championships and seemed set for a successful career, but her form dipped and she could only manage 13th place at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Further disappointment followed as she failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics four years later.
Korzits had hit rock bottom and at one stage considered retirement but she decided to race on. However, matters only got worse and she suffered a freak accident in 2009 when during a photo-shoot in Hawaii, she was hit in the back by another surfer and suffered a serious spine injury. At one stage doctors told her she might be paralysed from the waist downwards but she made a full recovery and began surfing again in 2010. It proved to be a pivotal moment in her career. She said: “It made me realise what I love doing best and that I can be a world-beater.”
But there was more adversity to come. Several months after returning to action, another competitor crashed into her, knocking her unconscious at the European Championships in Poland, but she was saved by the actions of an quick-thinking coach who managed to rescue her from the water. The setbacks seemed to harden her resolve and Korzits finished sixth at the 2010 World Championships before winning the last two World Championships in Australia and Spain.
Korzits is still troubled by her spinal injuries and corrective surgery earlier this year has not solved the problem, but she remains determined to overcome her physical difficulties in Weymouth.
Tattooed across her shoulder is her motto Wave, Wind and One God, hinting that as well as water, the spiritual element and the wind are important for her. She said: “I’ve sailed in Weymouth four times. If the wind is strong, around 20 knots, then I will do well.”