Gal Friedman became the first Israeli ever to win an Olympic gold medal, when he won the windsurfing event in Athens on Wednesday.
Friedman, who took home the bronze medal in Atlanta in 1996, is also the first Israeli to win two Olympic medals.
After Friedman crossed the finish line Wednesday, he took a victory dip and then wrapped himself in an Israeli flag when he came out of the water.
“It feels like a dream,” he said after his victory. “It’s an amazing, indescribable feeling. I’m happy that you were all able to view the race live. I simply felt that the entire country was pushing me from behind. I suddenly felt extra energies, and I didn’t know where they came from.”
“I’d like to thank the entire country of Israel,” Friedman continued. “I didn’t want to celebrate before crossing the finish line; afterwards everything came out.”
Residents of Friedman’s hometown of Karkur, near Hadera, streamed to the family’s house to celebrate, Israeli media said.
“It’s very, very hard to believe that he succeeded in doing this,” Friedman’s father, Uri, said.
President Moshe Katsav congratulated Friedman and invited him for a meeting.
“I’m happy together with everyone about this win,” Katsav said. “We all had great expectations that Gal would do this.”
“Today, Gal simply raced with a lot of confidence and he deserved this victory,” his trainer, Gur Steinberg, said. “Thanks to the entire country for all its support.… This shows that we can beat other countries.”
The silver went to Nikos Kaklamanakis of Greece, and Nick Dempsey of Great Britain won the bronze.