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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 August, 2004, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Israel wins first Olympic gold
Israeli windsurger Gal Fridman
Fridman came from behind to win a thrilling competition
Israeli windsurfer Gal Fridman has made Olympic history by winning his country's first gold medal.

He came second in the final race to win a thrilling men's Mistral competition.

"To see our flag and hear our national anthem played at the awards ceremony is a moment we have long been waiting for," said team manager Gilad Lustig.

In the 12 Olympics since the establishment of Israel, the country's athletes have only won one silver and three bronze medals.

Its Olympic history has been overshadowed by the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were seized by Palestinian militants during the 1972 Games in Munich.

"I simply felt a whole country standing behind me, pushing me. I never felt such a thing," Fridman said on Israeli Army Radio.

For us this is a dream come true
Team manager Gilad Lustig
Local TV stations interrupted programmes to show Fridman crossing the finish line, and then wrapping himself the blue and white Israeli flag as he came out of the water.

In a statement to Reuters news agency, Mr Lustig called Fridman Israel's "greatest athlete".

"For us this is a dream come true, something we have been dreaming about since our first Olympics in 1952," he said.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav congratulated the athlete in a telephone call broadcast live on Army Radio. He said all Israel was excited by the victory.

Later, 28-year-old windsurfer said he dedicated his victory to the 11 victims of Munich.

"When I get home I will go to the memorial place for them and show them the gold medal," he said.

"I'm sure they're watching us," he said. "And I'm sure their families in Israel will be really happy."

Fridman's victory came after Ricardo Santos of Brazil, the leader through 10 races, finished 17th in the 11th and final stage.

Nikolaos Kaklamanakis of Greece took the silver medal and Nick Dempsey of Great Britain won bronze.



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