The Israeli Olympic team was dealt its final blow on Tuesday when windsurfer Lee Korzits, the country's last chance at a medal in the 2012 London Games, finished ninth in the medal race and dropped from second to sixth place overall.
Spain's Marina Alabau Neira won the medal race and the gold medal, while Finland's Tuuli Petaja and Poland's Zofia Noceti-Klepacka won silver and bronze, respectively. "I failed," said Korzits, wiping her tears. "It's a great failure and now I have to deal with it. I've dealt with worse." Moments after arriving on shore, Korzits faced some 20 journalists and tried to explain how Israel's greatest - and last - hope for an Olympic medal in London fell apart when it mattered most. Korzits, who was ranked second before the medal race, found herself far behind at an early stage and eventually finished ninth and sixth overall.
From the start, it felt like it would be that sort of day. The train leading Israelis and Korzits fans from London to Weymouth broke down on the way, and the supporters arrived at the race seconds before it began. Gur Steinberg, Korzits' coach, met us with a big smile, promising everything would be alright, despite unpromising early morning weather reports: weak winds were forecast, and Korzits tends to thrive in strong winds.
Half an hour before the race, Korzits seemed calm, chatting with her good friend Alabau. The Israeli journalists' fantasy of jumping into the water and celebrating a medal with Korzits was shattered seconds after the race began. The Israeli windsurfer began the race slowly and was almost immediately overtaken by her rivals. Korzits tried to negotiate the wind, but seemed helpless and frustrated. After the first float, we all realized we wouldn't be celebrating an Israeli medal at these Olympics.
'It never went right'
After it all ended, Korzits wept bitterly, refusing to be comforted by her coaches. "I'm sorry I failed you all, but I really tried," she said. "The wind was difficult and the sea was unstable. I had a weak start, it was hard to get into my rhythm, and actually, it never went right for me. Professionally, I'm not that good in these conditions. When I woke up this morning I felt fine and told myself I deserve to win a medal because I was in good form all week, and losing the medal at the last race is deeply disappointing. I tried to close the gap with my rivals but it didn't work out. I'm sorry I let everyone down, but I do know I tried. It's a shame that yet another Israeli athlete failed at these games. I hope people will still love me despite this failure. "I don't know what the future holds for me," Korzits continued. "I'll try to keep enjoying myself for my friends' sake and try to understand what happened, but I'm not happy. There are more important things in the world, such as friendship. I'm happy for Alabau - being a good person is also worth a medal. The sea disappointed me, but I still hold it dear to my heart. I'm one with the sea, and I'll be back in the water soon enough."
Gili Lustig, head of the Elite Sports Unit who witnessed how all his group's hopes were dashed one after the other, said: "It's very disappointing for Lee and for us all. I feel for her. She was really close. It's our failure as well. We failed in sailing and in judo, and we have to figure out what went wrong."