Gal Friedman is a two time Olympic medalist for Israel in the mistral sailing event, and the first Israeli to ever win a gold medal. In 1996 Gal won the bronze and in 2004, Friedman won an Olympic gold medal. Friedman is also the first Israeli to win two medals. The nation of Israel held its breath as Gal started his eleventh and final race in 2004. Friedman said: "I thank the entire nation. The feeling is incredible and indescribable. I felt the entire country pushing me on."
A member of the Israeli sailing team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Friedman competed in the men's mistral (sailboard) event. He took the bronze medal, only the third medal won by an Israeli athlete in Olympic history. Going into the final race, Gal held a slim point lead for third place, but held onto it to clinch his bronze. After winning the medal, Friedman said: "There are no words to describe this, but I feel very good...I felt the whole of Israel was watching me."
In Athens 2004, Gal competed in the Mistral sailing event. In the first race, held on August 15 he placed 5th clocking in at 1:22. He started at a sluggish pace and was in 17th place at the first mark, but made a dash towards the end and caught up with the leaders. However, due to an error in the sailing path taken on the first race, the results have been disregarded and will not count for the total. Friedman was even better in his second race that day. Having spent the first half of the race in fourth place, Friedman pulled into third and made a 1:02 time. The Israeli mistral sailor will be disappointed with his result in the re-sail of the first race, held on August 18, as he came in eighth (1:53). He did better in his second race that day, scored as the third race of the event, where he placed fifth (1:33). The next day Gal placed 5th in the fourth race (0:39), and moved up to second place overall. Friedman cemented his place among the leaders with his performance on August 20. He won the fifth race and finished seventh in the sixth race (1:06). The Israeli moved into first place with a solid day of sailing on August 21. He finished 5th in race seven (1:01) and then first in race eight. The following day, Gal guaranteed an Olympic medal but fell out of first place. He placed 8th in race nine (1:01) and 5th in race ten (1:40) and was ranked second overall with one sail left on. On August 25, Gal needed to finish at least five spots ahead of his Brazilian rival for gold, Ricardo Santos. In his 11th and final sail, Gal finished second after a tremendous effort (0:32) while Santos placed 17th, thus guaranteeing the Israeli gold.
Gal won the bronze in the mistral sailing event at the Atlanta Olmpics in 1996 but failed to make the Sydney Games. He qualified for the Athens games and was on his best form, winning gold. Friedman got his love of sailing from his family. His father competed in sailing from 1978 onward and as a child he always lived by the ocean. Gal said he is happy the competition was held in Athens since: "I know the area well and have trained there many times. The area is very familiar to me, and I know I can do well." He sails for Hapoel Sdot-Yam.
Friedman won the silver medal at the 1995 and 1996 World Championships and placed second in the European Championships both years. He was named Israel's Sportsman of the Year in 1996. After the success in Atlanta, Gal failed to make the Olympic criteria for Sydney 2000. He bounced back with an impressive array of results, starting with the 2001 European Championships in France. Friedman won the bronze and seemed to have put the Sydney ignominy behind him. In 2002 he was the best mistral sailor in the world. He won gold at the World Championship in Thailand and the silver in the European Championships. 2003 saw Gal capture the bronze in the World Championships at Cadiz. 2004 has seen Friedman enter a mistimed slump as he could only manage a 20th place finish in the World Championships. On May 25, 2004 Friedman won the National Championships by such a wide margin, that he sat out the third and final day of sailing.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Sept. 16, 1975
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