It's almost impossible to sit down to even a five-minute conversation in peace and quiet with Uri and Deganit Friedman, the parents of windsurfer Gal Friedman. Their telephone rings every few seconds; when they leave it off the hook, their mobile phones become a nuisance. The calls are coming in so thick and so fast that on one occasion, when the phone rang, Deganit picked up the television remote control, put it to her ear and started talking.
Everyone wants to know how the proud parents are doing now that their son has assured himself of a place on the medal podium. In the meantime, the two are maintaining the outward appearance of calm; they know they still have a long and nerve-racking wait ahead of them until they know just how high up on the podium their son will be standing.
"Even if he wins silver or bronze, it won't be a disappointment," Uri says. "The real disappointment was four years ago, when he missed the Sydney Olympics because of mononucleosis. An Olympic medal is an Olympic medal; and you have to remember that in Gal's case, we are talking about a second medal."
Despite the fact that the two proud parents speak happily with all the callers and convey a sense of "everything's under control," Deganit admits that the pressure has yet to abate even now that it is clear that Gal will be bringing a medal home. "It's still the same tension like there was at the start of the competition because we are all waiting to see which medal he will bring home. All of the competitors want the gold; the Brazilian, the Greek, everyone is fighting for the medal tooth and nail. I will welcome Gal happily in any event; but I know that it is important to him to finish first," she says.
Deganit has hardly spoken to Gal on the telephone since he left for Athens. "I spoke to him only once, when a shipment of special food supplements he had ordered arrived from the United States. Other than that, we correspond through an instant messenger program, not even through SMS's...Sometimes he gets all his friends into a group chat; after all, everyone asks the same questions."
Deganit says Gal doesn't speak to her or his father about the Olympics at all. "He asks if his father went cycling on Shabbat and if everything is okay; and I make sure not to ask him about the wind conditions or if he has eaten and stuff like that. He doesn't allow me to be involved and so I get most of the information about him from his friends," she says.
Deganit and Uri are unable to come up with a good explanation for the sense of calm that Gal is exhibiting. "I definitely feel he is different from usual this time," Deganit says. "He smiles more, he's more open; he is speaking with the media, riding around on his bicycle and keeping calm. Apparently, his experience and maturity are doing their part."
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