For Israeli windsurfing champion Lee-el Korzits, “it’s all about getting to the Olympics. That’s the dream and we work very hard for it from the time we are young.”
And now she’s one step closer. Earlier this week, on December 11, Korzits won the gold medal in the Women’s RS:X competition at the Perth (Australia) 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships — the second of four qualifying rounds leading up the 2012 London Olympics.
Every country gets only one windsurfing slot at the Games, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned Korzits after her victory to say that he looks forward to seeing her represent Israel. The other Israeli contender, Maayan Davidovich, finished sixth at Perth.
Korzits draped a blue-and-white Israeli flag around her shoulders as she celebrated her win by just two points over Poland’s Zofia Klepacka. These two women, and bronze medalist Marina Alabau of Spain, are close with each other. “On the beach we are like best friends but in the water we are competing,” Korzits told reporters at the event.
Video of the three winners:
The power of nature
The 27-year-old Israeli became the youngest windsurfing world champion in 2003. In 2006, following a board-surfing injury and a spat with the national team consultant, Korzits quit competing for a couple of years.
But she came back with renewed determination. Now coached by a childhood friend, she earned the silver medal at the RS:X European Windsurfing Championships in Bulgaria in September.
Korzits explains to ISRAEL21c that in her Mediterranean coastal hometown of Michmoret, learning to windsurf is like learning to ride a bike. But it’s quite a bit more demanding, combining elements of sailing and surfing with gymnastic jumps, loops and spins.
“I grew up in a place where everybody went to the [Emek Hefer Sailing] club together as kids, and the good ones stayed. A lot of good athletes come from this village of mine.”
Her sister Bar and her brother Tom are also talented windsurfers. Tom was her first coach, says Korzits, who also wants to coach one day. “I like to teach windsurfing, to show kids what the sport can give them. In the sea, they have to handle something stronger than themselves. I want to give the power I got from nature to other people.”
But first, hopes to follow in the footsteps of Israeli windsurfer Gal Fridman, the bronze medalist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the gold medalist at the 2004 Athens Games.
“Most of the time Israel is only known for its problems and I’d really like to be the one to put Israel on the map for doing sport and enjoying life,” Korzits remarked in Perth.
Korzits says she tends to be hyperactive and also enjoys other extreme water sports. “I look for the danger. I like risks,” she admits. Yet the water has a calming effect and helps her focus.
“I can’t concentrate anywhere else, so it’s like a meditation place for me,” she says. “I learn to be quiet — really quiet. I listen to the sea, and the sound of the waves is like a mantra.”
Korzitz trains on her rig three hours a day. She does lung-strengthening activities such as biking and swimming for another six hours. Her regimen suits her well, though it leaves little time for a social life “I cannot rest if there are good waves,” she says. “I want to be in the water.”
Korzits was an athletic training commander in the Israel Defense Forces. “It was important to me to be in the army because I think everyone needs to serve our country,” she says.
“You kind of get used to it, from traveling the world,” says Korzits. “I try to stay in a bubble. But I feel proud that I was born here and I live here. I know I’m Jewish and I love representing Israel. When you hear the national anthem that’s playing just because of you, it’s a feeling you cannot imagine.”
For news, features, videos and background information on the athletes, please visit olympics.israel21c.org.