SAILING Fridman gets Israel's first-ever gold medal



XATHENS, Greece -- Windsurfer Gal Fridman carried his country's hopes with him as he sped across the Saronic Gulf's gentle waves.
When he crossed the finish line, he became the first Israeli to win an Olympic gold medal. He pumped his fist, took a victory dip and then wrapped himself in an Israeli flag when he emerged from the water.
"When after the start I felt a bit tired, it was as though the whole country was pushing me to the win," Fridman said.
He promised to take his gold medal to the memorial in Tel Aviv for the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches slain after being seized by a Palestinian terrorist group at the 1972 Munich Games.
Fridman, who turned to mountain biking for two years after failing to qualify for the 2000 Olympics, went into the decisive race in second place overall in the Mistral class. His remarkable win was aided by the surprise collapse of leader Richard Santos of Brazil, who finished 17th.
In other action, two American crews remained in medal position after a tough afternoon of sailing in light, shifty wind.
John Lovell of New Orleans and Charlie Ogletree of Houston dropped from first to second overall in the Tornado class after finishing sixth and seventh. They trail defending gold medalists Roman Hagara and Hans Peter Steinacher of Austria by seven points with three races to go.
On the Star course, Americans Paul Cayard and Phil Trinter rode a wind shift in making a spectacular comeback to win the day's first race, but then finished 15th. They remain in third place with 42 points.
Brazil's Torben Grael continued to build his lead, finishing second and seventh for a total of 20 points with three races left. Canada's Ross MacDonald and Mike Wolfs are second with 39.2 points.
The U.S. sailors were frustrated after a long, hot day with little wind. By the second race in both the Star and Tornado classes, the sea breeze dropped as low as four knots.
Faustine Merret of France won the gold in the women's race. Yin Jian of China won the silver, and Alessandra Sensini of Italy got the bronze.
Associated Press
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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