Israel's 'Lion From Zion': One of the Best Windsurfers on the Planet, if Not the Best

Lee Korzits, or the ‘Lion from Zion’, has secured an unequaled achievement in her event by becoming a four times world champion, three times consecutively.

Four times world champion, three times consecutively − an unequaled achievement in this event − Lee Korzits, the “Lion from Zion” as she enjoyes being called, made history again and proved that she is one of the best windsurfers around, if not the very best.

One could write a novel about what the 29-year-old athlete went through in recent years, highlighting her blood disease and the episode where she almost drowned in the European Championships in Poland in 2010. In any case, Korzits also proved for the umpteenth time that she has the rare capability − professionally, mentally and physically − to reemerge from the depths.

This ability − and one must remember that she almost decided to call it a day several times in the past year − is more than impressive. It is altogether admirable.

This naturally leads to the obvious question: Why didn’t she demonstrate her ability in such a convincing fashion at the London Olympics? Why did she so miserably fail to secure a medal in the last race at Weymouth? The winds that day are part of the answer, but do not reveal the full story.

The pressure at Weymouth, and from Israel that day, was immense. The expectations were sky high − a whole country expected everything from her. At the world championships all the best surfers compete, not only one from each country ‏(kudos to Ma’ayan Davidovich for her excellent performance‏). The conditions may change, but Israelis take an avid interest in such a competition only if there is sudden success or a dirty battle between two athletes, such as the Mashiah-Zubari showdown.

There were no Israeli journalists, TV or radio crews in Brazil this week. Israelis might be pleased with the title, but don’t really care − and that made it so much easier for Korzits. The pressure from Israel and a bit of bad luck explain the misfortune last August. Still, we must admit the truth: Korzits would probably be happy to exchange two or three world championship medals for one Olympic medal − but nonetheless, she is truly a great athlete.

Just for perspective, no other Israeli has won more than one gold medal at any world championships, and Korzits already has four. And what does the future hold? “Only the sea knows,” she said in August.

Raising hopes

Before the London Games, the Olympic Committee of Israel and the Elite Sports Unit boasted that Israel would gain many medals in London. Eventually, after the crucial 16 days, not even one medal was taken.

Now we’re already getting ready for the Rio de Janeiro Olympiad, and the medals are already stacking up. Korzits, target shooter Sergey Richter and the judokas are doing fine. Korzits is again world champion, Richter is European champion, Davidovich will probably secure a medal and Mashiah might also come good. This run of successes gives room for optimism, but it’s only the beginning. We should be hopeful, but humility also has its place. The real challenges are still three and a half years away.

AP