FRIDMAN, GAL (1975– ), Israeli windsurfer; first Israeli ever to win an Olympic gold medal and the first Israeli to win two Olympic medals. Born in the Israeli moshav of Karkur, near Haderah, Fridman – whose first name, Gal, means "wave" in Hebrew – began windsurfing when he was six years old and competing at age 11, under the coaching of his father, Uri. Young Fridman competed in international competitions in the youth categories in 1989 and 1991 while attending the ORT Ha-Shomron High School in Binyaminah. Fridman won the silver medal at the 1995 and 1996 World Championships and placed second in the European Championships both years. He then won a bronze medal at the Atlanta 1996 Summer Olympics, Israel's third medal-winner, and was named Israel's Sportsman of the Year. Fridman won a bronze in the European Championship in 1997; silver in the European Championship in 2002; gold at the Mistral World Championship in 2002; and a bronze at the World Championship in 2003. His winning the Olympic gold medal in Athens in 2004 was an historic moment in Israeli sports history. After crossing the finish line, Fridman pumped his fist, took a victory dip and then wrapped himself in an Israeli flag when he emerged from the water. "I am happy you all got to see the race live on television," he said to Israeli viewers in an interview. "I simply felt the entire country pushing me forward." It was the first time the national anthem Hatikvah was played at the Olympics. President Moshe Katzav, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and other senior Israeli officials and politicians called Fridman to congratulate him.
[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.