ISRAELI windsurfer Lee Korzits won a gold medal at the International Sailing Federation World Championships on Sunday only two years after she was told by doctors she would never compete on the water again.
Korzits won the RS:X windsurfing event, collecting a $26,000 bonus from the Israeli Olympic Committee when she came first ahead of Poland’s Zofia Noceti-Klepacka in a gripping 10-race series in Perth over the last week.
“This is one of the happiest moments of my life,” Korzits said.
“I can’t believe I have achieved this after all the ups and downs I have undergone.
“I’m proud to be an Israeli and I’m proud that the national anthem was played thanks to me,” she said.
Korzits had all but retired three years ago after losing out to fellow Israeli windsurfer Maayan Davidovich in the battle to represent Israel at the Beijing Olympics.
She had grown sick with the arduous nature of her sport and joined the Professional Windsurfers Association’s tour in Hawaii, as well as taking part in extreme surfing events in the Canary Islands.
However, her life was turned on its head in April 2009 after an almost fatal surfing accident left her with two broken ribs and a broken leg.
Korzits spent two days in intensive care under sedation in Hawaii and was told by doctors that she would be paralysed and never able to surf again.
The accident changed Korzits’s perspective on life and, after an entire year of rehabilitation, she returned to the sea and slowly but surely the pain that used to accompany every work-out faded away.
However, her comeback almost ended in tragedy when an American windsurfer crashed into Korzits during last year’s European Championships and the Israeli found herself trapped underwater underneath her sail.
Korzits lost consciousness, but fortunately a French coach who was nearby noticed her plight and resuscitated her moments before she would have suffered irreversible damage.
Korzits refused to be traumatised by the frightening experience and she has been on a steady rise since.
She won a silver medal at the European Championships in Bulgaria in September and dominated the competition in Perth.
Immediately after winning, she received a phone call from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“You have proven you have resilience as well as amazing talent,” Netanyahu said.
“I look forward to seeing you at the London Olympics.”
President Shimon Peres was also among the many well-wishers.
“If I had long enough arms I would send them to Australia to give you a hug on behalf of the State of Israel,” he said.
“You suffered a serious injury, but you believed in yourself and overcame adversity.”
Gidi Kliger and Eran Sela missed out on claiming a medal in the 470 Class competition in Perth on Sunday as they finished fourth.
THE JERUSALEM POST