Women’s RS:X windsurfing world champion Lee Korzits sails during a training session in the Mediterranean sea, near Tel Aviv in this April 30, 2012 file photo. Korzits, one of Israel’s top medal chances at the 2012 Games and the three-times world champion said she was aware of the expectations as Israeli eyes will keep watch on the sailing regatta in Weymouth on England’s south coast in July and August. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen/Files)
By Ori Lewis
JERUSALEM, June 8 (Reuters) – If women’s RS:X windsurfing world champion Lee Korzits does win a medal at the Olympic sailing regatta, it may well partly be down to her vivacious, easy-going manner.
Possessing a typical Israeli trait of not dwelling on ceremony, she was last year picked up by a microphone telling Israeli President Shimon Peres, who had called to congratulate her on winning the world title, that she couldn’t talk.
“Just a minute Shimon, I can’t talk now, they are holding the opening ceremony,” she said without a second thought, as she replied to Israel’s head of state and probably its most revered living statesman.
One of Israel’s top medal chances at the 2012 Games, three-times world champion Korzits is aware of the weight of expectation on her as Israeli eyes focus on the sailing regatta in Weymouth on England’s south coast in July and August.
Israel has won three Olympic windsurfing medals – Gal Fridman won bronze in Atlanta and gold in Athens and Shahar Tzuberi, who will also race in Weymouth, won bronze at the Beijing Games.
Korzits was well placed for a podium finish at the “Sail for Gold” regatta in Weymouth this week and hoped to at least equal her third-placed finish at the same event last year.
She said she much prefers windy conditions, but has been training for all types of weather at the Olympics, although the cold waters of the English Channel are not to her liking.
“The wind is really good over there but it’s quite cold so it’s really hard as I’m from Israel, a warm country but we are working to fit in with all the conditions, not only in the strong wind, which is my specialty,” she said.
The vivacious, straight-talking Israeli won her first world championship in Cadiz, Spain in 2003 and went to the Athens Games the following year expecting to fulfill her nation’s hopes, but finished down the field in 13th position.
She did not qualify for Beijing in 2008 but following back-to-back world titles in 2011-12 she feels ready to deliver.
“The second time at the Olympics is the real race, because the first time it’s overwhelming, with so many people around that are never there at other events, and there is so much interest from the media,” she said.
“I think I have learned a lot, I now have eight-nine years of experience, I’m more mature and I’ll use that experience now.”
Korzits almost drowned twice after being hit by rivals but has shrugged off those incidents and has recovered fully from the injuries she sustained. They convinced her that people were more of a threat in the sea than the elements.
“Nature is stronger than all of us,” the 28-year-old told Reuters in a recent interview. “Many people don’t know how to feel nature’s movement as I can, and sometimes they make mistakes.
“I also make mistakes but I have learned from them … I’m more scared of people in the sea than of nature, I have to fit in with nature.”
In Hawaii, Korzits had to be pulled to safety after another surfer crashed into her from behind, cracking two of her ribs and fracturing a bone in her leg.
At the 2010 European championships in Poland, she was knocked off her board by a fellow competitor and was trapped under the sails. She lost consciousness and had to be rescued by a nearby motorboat.
Korzits’ coach Ben Finkelstein said her most important asset was her knowledge of the sea and her ability to predict wind and wave patterns, enhancing her control of the sailboard.
“She knows the sea well and can’t live without it. She can sense the direction of the waves and currents and she will know how to take advantage and be fastest on the water by shifting her weight at just the right time,” he said.