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Yael Arad

(1967 - )

Yael Arad was born in Tel Aviv on May 1, 1967. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Reichman University.

Arad started taking judo classes at the age of eight and within half a year, ranked second in Israel in her weight class. For lack of judo partners, she trained with the coach of the men’s team, and she has also trained in Europe and Japan.

She won her first international title in middleweight competition in 1984 at the age of 17.

She came in 7th in the 1984 World Judo Championships in Vienna then won bronze medals in the European Championships of 1989 and 1991.

At the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992, Arad became the first Israeli athlete to win an Olympic medal. Narrowly missing the gold, in the half middle-weight competition, she returned home with the silver medal and became a national hero. Arad dedicated the medal to the victims of the 1972 Munich Massacre.

After winning her Olympic medal, Arad wrote:

Thursday, July 30, 1992. A fateful day, a watershed day, a day of fame, a day of self-fulfillment. A day that required fifteen years of hard work, endless investment and hidden self-confidence. The day I won the Olympic silver medal. My medal. The first medal of the State of Israel. … I went onto the mat like a stormy wind, after a warm-up that drove from my body all the little demons that threatened to defeat me even before it all began. The first match was against a woman from Spain who had already defeated me twice in the past, but it was clear to me that this time she had no chance. I went off after four minutes, the winner. The second match was against a woman from the Czech Republic. We knew each other well and we both knew I was better. The victory over her contributed a bit more to building confidence for the tough and significant match of the day. Four minutes were all that stood between myself and my life’s dream. … When the match started, the semi-finals, I was there with all my battle gear. And suddenly, it was all over. I had won. … Emotionally it was the highest moment of my life and despite my losing later in the finals the victory in the semi-finals against the woman from Germany was the sweetest of all. That day I changed from a person who wanted to a person who could. And that made all the difference.

In 1993, she won a gold medal in the European championships and took the silver in the world championships. In the 1995 World Championships, she finished fifth.

Arad chose to compete at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic despite being ill. Her weakened condition cost her the chance for a medal and she finished fifth.

She served as judo coach for Israel in the 2000 Sydney Olympics,

In 1993, she was chosen to light the torch at the Maccabiah Games.

After retiring from the sport, Arad continued with judo as a coach and sports entrepreneur. Today she holds a management position in a children’s product company and serves as a TV commentator at judo competitions.

Since 2012, Arad is a member of the Marketing Commission and the Digital & Technology Commission at the International Olympic Committee. In 2013, she became a board member of the Olympic Committee of Israel and Chairwomen of its Sports Commission. In 2021, she was appointed to President of the Olympic Committee of Israel making her the first woman and first Olympic medalist to hold the position.

Arad married Lior Kahane and has two children.

Sources: The Pedagogic Center, The Department for Jewish Zionist Education, The Jewish Agency for Israel, (c) 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, Director: Dr. Motti Friedman, Webmaster: Esther Carciente.
“Yael Arad,” Wikipedia.

Photo: Leah Jones from Chicago, USA, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.