Catch the Wind

Lee Korzits and Tom Korzits windsurfing.

Lee Korzits
Profession: Windsurfing
Age: 28
Olympic Games: participated in Athens
Outstanding achievements: World champion 2003 (Spain), 2011 (Australia) and 2012 (Spain); 5th place in international championship professional round (2007)
Residence: Mikhmoret

Tom Korzits
Age: 29
Coaching since: 1998
Coached Lee: from 2006-2007, 2011-2012
Residence: Mikhmoret

Tom Korzits still looks a little embarrassed when he remembers how his little sister, Lee, insisted on tagging along with him and his friends when they went windsurfing.
“We were guys of 16 and she was a kid of 14,” he recalls. “Only the guys windsurfed me and my buddies. But my little sister would turn up every time and demand that she join us. It was unpleasant for me. What did she want with us?! But she was stubborn and went with us. At the time, I didn’t think of her as being a terrific windsurfer or anything like that. She was the nagging little sister. But these days she windsurfs almost better than any of us.”

Lee Korzits, 28, the world’s best female windsurfer last month she won her third world title, in Cadiz, Spain is probably Israel’s best hope for a medal at the upcoming London Olympics. Tom Korzits, 29, still goes out to sea with his sister almost every day. He coaches the children’s and youth windsurfing team of the Hapoel Michmoret club. Along the way he also coaches his sister, though she does not make use of his services full-time.

“Tom is the reason I do windsurfing,” the world champion says. “He also coached me in the past, but we reached the conclusion that our relationship as siblings was detrimental to coach-athlete relations. Tom is a superb coach and he is also the closest person to me, but that closeness led him to take what I do in the water too much to heart. So we decided that someone else would coach me, but Tom would supervise ‘from above.’”

Although her regular coach is Ben Finkelstein whom Tom succeeded as coach in Mikhmoret Lee does not forgo her brother’s advice.

“When we are windsurfing every day he still makes comments here and there, and gives me advice,” she explains. “As far as I am concerned, there is no substitute for his knowledge, for his caring and love, or for his familiarity with my abilities.”

According to Tom, “Lee mostly trains herself, but also has an excellent coach who works with her. It’s true that I still make comments from time to time, but I try to look at things now with a bird’s-eve view. Because at the day-to-day level, Lee knows better than anyone what’s good for her. She knows the board and her connection with it, and the coach’s task is mainly to ensure that she gets into the competitions without being pressured.

“Unfortunately, I had a hard time in that regard, probably because of our brother-sister relations. But I see her surfing every day and ‘live’ her performances. I am only completely relaxed when she is in competitions. This last world championship was the first time I felt that I had to follow her online every day. Until then, people would see me and ask, ‘Hey, aren’t you watching what your sister is doing?’ And I would say, ‘What’s it to me?’”

This approach of knowing everything but giving others space and not being stressed out characterizes the Korzits family as a whole. “Everyone is very supportive, with no ‘buts,’ but you won’t see us at her competitions,” Tom notes, referring to his parents and his 20-year-old sister, Bar, who is also a talented windsurfer (runner-up in the world championships) but decided two years ago to leave the sport and do army service.

“Bar did what I also sort of wanted to do, but in the end I decided to go with the sport,” Lee says. “It’s true that I feel plenty of family support, but I won’t let my parents come to competitions because it would put too much pressure on me. But Tom is a different story. He doesn’t make me uptight, although maybe he himself is uptight. I wouldn’t object, let’s say, if he wanted to come with me to London.”

Big brother won’t commit himself at this point. “I will probably stay here,” he says. “I don’t have to be at the Olympics in order to be with Lee. I will focus mainly on organizing the party for when she returns.”

Tom doesn’t venture to say what sort of celebration that will be: The question now hovering over Lee whether she will win an Olympic medal does not seem to be preoccupying her older brother.

“Lee first won the world championship in 2003, when she was 19,” he says. “She was a gifted athlete but didn’t have the experience to cope with all the pressures and expectations that followed. No one had prepared her for that.

So she experienced a decline and didn’t succeed at the 2004 Athens Olympics. After that she took a break from windsurfing, searched for herself a little, and during that process was very seriously injured while windsurfing in Hawaii, though not in a competition. She was out of action for a year and then made a comeback against all the odds, and from the right place. She has since won the world championships twice. There is no doubt that she is one of the best.

“But there are about 10 female windsurfers who on any given day are capable of winning a gold at the Olympics,” he continues. “So, to judge her only according to whether she comes back with a medal from London is both very unfair and downright stupid.”

While her older brother doesn’t say so explicitly, it’s quite clear that from his point of view his little sister is already champion.