Born in Karkur, near Hadera, Israel, on the 16th September, 1975, Gal Fridman started sailing at age 6 or 7 and racing at age 11, and his interest in sailing and windsurfing has been a family one. His father, Uri Fridman, has been his inspiration and coached him for many years in his amateur and professional career; his uncle of nearby Kibbutz Sdot Yam also helped him; his mother Dganit says she is his keenest supporter; his brother Yuval accompanied him to the Athens Olympics.
Gal became a member of the Sdot Yam Sailing Club at a young age. He attended the Ort School in Binyamina, where he took matriculation in 1993. His earliest international competitions were in the youth categories during his school years (1989, 1991), after which served in the IDF and began competing in the adult categories. His current trainer is Gur Steinberg.
In 1996, Gal won an Olympic bronze medal for windsurfing, and was named Israeli Sportsman of the Year. In 2003, he won the Mistral World Championship in Pattaya, Thailand. He did not, however, participate in the Sydney 2000 Olympics, due to illness; during his convalescence he began mountain biking, and returned to regular training and competition in 2001, climbing back to the top. In retrospect, it is not only a superb comeback, but a culmination of strategy and good training: his mountain bike training can be seen to have contributed considerably to his rhythmic style and sustained strength in competitive windsurfing.
Gal Fridman returned to the Olympic team for the Athens Olympics in the Windsurfing/Mistral class, and entered with determination, ambition, and high hopes of winning a gold medal. Following his consistently top-10, or outstanding performances in the first 10 sections of the Mistral events, Israel watched with baited breath as he went into the eleventh leg of the race. He finished second in the final leg of race on Wednesday 25th August, but with the highest overall place, thus becoming Israel's first ever Olympic Gold Medallist [Athens 2004] and Israel's sixth Olympic medallist. The award ceremony resounded to the roar of enthusiastic supporters' singing Hatikvah, the first time it has been played at the Olympics. [Israel has been competing in the Olympics since 1952 and Yael Arad was Israel's first Olympic medallist, winning the silver as a judoka.]
An ecstatic and exhausted Gal Fridman acknowledged his supporters from and in Israel; in his shy and modest comments on winning first place and on returning to Israel, he dedicated his medal to the memory of the 11 Israeli athletes assassinated by members of the Black September organization, during the Munich Olympics (1972). Beijing awaits...
Written and compiled by: Gila Ansell Brauner with Sandra Michaelovsky
Gal and his Waves:
by Emma Corney
I went to Ben-Gurion airport last night to greet Gal Fridman (see biography) and our other super heroes from their wins in Athens, Olympics 2004. I got to touch Arik (the judo bronze medalist)'s medal and personally wish him mazal tov.
It's not something I'd ordinarily do – bother to go to the airport to “see it live.” Indeed, all other such historic events I've been happy to watch on TV, eating chocolate, lying comfortably on my sofa, because quite simply, “I get a better view on TV.” True – aesthetically the cameramen would've bought me something “sharper,” but I gained something else by going… something so much more. I don't think that “something more” was the champagne that sprayed over my hair as the Carmel (kosher) bottle popped open, milimeters away from me, nor the sense of being crushed as excited expectants broke through the police barrier when our heroes stood facing us. Rather, it was witnessing firsthand – being in spitting distance of all our Biblical heroes.
Also there were a blue-and-white clad dance group of early-teens from Pardess Hanna, the neighbourhood Tzofim (Scouts), family, friends, and other excited well-wishers. It wasn't as mobbed as I'd imagined, but that fitted with what I've learnt so far of Gal and the other “superheroes.”
Daniel said Olympians often have these characteristics – they have to work hard for their dreams so are self-disciplined, hard working and non-arrogant. With Israelis, this is even more so as the country simply doesn't have the resources readily available to potential Olympians in wealthier, more established countries.
For me, Gal made waves when he returned home to his teeny-bopping blue and white clad local dancers, his 4-year-old, overwhelmed ginger-haired, blue-eyed, cousin, and - most importantly - his parents, to whom he gave so many thanks. I'm sure he enjoyed the champagne bottle-opening in his honour, but standing by his family and showing us he will never forget where he comes from and to where he is returning, was the “something more.”
Points to Ponder:
In his book, The Private Adam: Becoming a Hero in a Selfish Age, Shmuley Boteach talks about the greatness of striving to be a Biblical hero (the good guy, like Avraham the water carrier) rather than a classical hero (the famous movie star who never sees his kids). Such heroism is “based not on attention-grabbing but soul-searching.”
“If I’m correct,” Boteach adds, “then the secret to a fulfilling life, and the first step toward heroism, is to master the art of goodness.”
- How do you perceive our Olympians' personalities?
Haaretz Reports and picture gallery
Prime Minister Sharon congratulates Olympic Medallist Gal Fridman 25th August 2004
International competition placings
Dedicated pages with photo gallery, competitive achievements since 1989, write-in page to Gal, links
or print version on