ORT’s Golden Gal makes waves at the Olympics


27 August 2004 ORT graduate Gal Fridman has made history, becoming the first Israeli to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Nowhere was the excitement greater than at ORT Hasharon in Binyamina, the school in northern Israel that Fridman attended until his matriculation in 1993. We are all very proud and very happy, said ORT Binyamina principal Rivka Tsuk. I knew that he would win. Its a great moment for us that one of our pupils got a gold medal. I hope that all our news will be as good as this! ORT is the worlds largest Jewish international education and vocational training non-profit organisation, and educates more than 270,000 students Jewish and non-Jewish each year. ORTs single largest operation is in Israel where it has 164 educational establishments catering to more than 90,000 of the countrys Jewish, Arab, Druze and Bedouin citizens. Fridmans passion for the sea was evident during his schooldays, as shown by his entry in the schools graduation book. His friends wrote in Hebrew: Never on time for class, always wakes up late. In summer or winter, Gal is off when the surfs up. We will always be friends. His maths teacher Sonia Gram remembers Fridman as a very good boy, and polite. He was very nice and friendly. She admitted that he did sometimes arrive late for lessons when there were good waves but stressed this didnt happen very often. Fridman, 28, won the gold medal in the mens windsurfing, known in the Olympics as mistral. His victory marked the first time that the Israeli national anthem, Hatikva, was played at the Games. Fridman had already entered the record books when, as a result of his placement in the previous 10 races, he was the only competitor guaranteed at least a bronze in the competition making him the first Israeli to win two Olympic medals. He had won a bronze at the Atlanta Games in 1996, but missed the Sydney 2000 Games due to ill health. World ORT Director General Robert Singer said he was delighted with Fridmans success. Im extremely happy that an ORT graduate is the first person to bring the honour of an Olympic gold medal to Israel, Mr Singer said. ORT Binyamina is an excellent school with a superb academic record and highly motivated teachers and students. I would like to think that Gals determination to succeed is at least partly the result of the education he received there. On his return to Israel, Fridman said he planned to stop at the memorial in Tel Aviv for the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by the PLO during the Munich Olympic Games three years before he was born. Just to bring them the honour they deserve, he said. After receiving his medal, Fridman said: The only thing I can want is I would love to bring peace to Israel. If you fight someone, fight him in sport, to prove who is better, not in different ways. This is our job as athletes to show the other side of the Israeli people that we want peace. All of my friends that I know want peace, because nobody likes anything else but peace. His Olympic win brings Fridman not only honour and glory but the prospect of earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising endorsements. However, Ms Tsuk hopes that Fridman will not forget his old school. Its very difficult to combine sport and learning so we have to give sportspeople all our support. Thats why every year we hold a special event to salute our school teams. Parents and the community are invited to this event and we hope that Gal will come next time and give our teams some of his spirit.