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Israel lauds first gold medalist

Fridman and his gold medal were given a hero's welcome in Tel Aviv.
• Olympics 2004: Special report 
Tel Aviv (Israel)

(CNN) -- Israel's first gold medalist Gal Fridman has been welcomed home by an enthusiastic crowd in Tel Aviv.

The windsurfer, whose first name means "wave" in Hebrew, took gold in the Mistral after sailing a remarkably consistent regatta, never finishing worse than eighth in the 11-race series.

"I am honored to be the first Israeli athlete to bring home an Olympic gold, and I hope there will be many more to follow," Fridman told the crowd present at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv Monday night.

Fridman had already won bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

In 12 previous Olympics dating to 1952, Israel had won only one silver and three bronze medals.

Before the Athens Games, its Olympic legacy was primarily somber -- political complications, occasional snubs by athletes from Islamic countries and, overshadowing all else, the killing of 11 athletes and coaches who were seized by a Palestinian terrorist group called Black September at the 1972 Games in Munich.

The closest Israel ever came to winning a gold medal was in 1988 when two other members of Fridman's sailing club ranked second heading into the final day of competition.

They did not compete because it was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews.

Asked about his future plans Fridman said he wanted to take a break now, but that he would consider competing at the next Olympics in Beijing.

Israel had more reason to celebrate when Ariel Zeevi took the bronze in the men's under 100kg judo competition.

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