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Sailing

PTI | ByJustin Palmer (Reuters), Athens
Aug 31, 2004 08:19 PM IST

Fridman's triumph put the gloss on the two-week long regatta. Britain, as in Sydney, ruled the waves- topping the medal standings with two golds, a silver and two bronze medals.

The modern steel-structured amphitheatre built to host the awards ceremonies at the Agios Kosmas sailing centre was a fitting and poignant witness to Olympic history.

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Windsurfer Gal Fridman's success in the Mistral gripped a nation as Israel, 52 years after sending their first delegation to a Games, finally celebrated an Olympic gold.

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Fridman closed his eyes and smiled as Israel's blue and white flag was pulled up the Olympic flagpole and the national anthem, Hatikvah (The Hope), reverberated out on to the Saronic Gulf.

"It's a dream come true, its unbelievable that I've become the first Israeli to win a gold medal," said Fridman.

"I felt like the whole country (Israel) was watching me and pushing me from behind."

Fridman's triumph put the gloss on the two-week long regatta. Britain, as in Sydney four years ago, ruled the waves -- topping the medal standings with two golds, a silver and two bronze medals.

Englishman Ben Ainslie proved again that he is the world's leading single-handed dinghy sailor by winning his second successive gold.

Ainslie, who switched from the Laser to the heavier Finn dinghy after Sydney, dug deep when the going got tough -- channelling his anger and frustration at a second race disqualification to race his rivals ragged.

Brazilian Robert Scheidt is all too familiar with Ainslie's skills and aggressive sailing having been hounded out of Laser gold in 2000. The seven-time world champion, without his great rival to contend with this time, rose to the occasion to regain his title.

Gold for the amiable Scheidt was one of two for the South American nation, Torben Grael etching his name into Olympic history by becoming the first sailor to win five medals.

The six-times Olympian, along with team mate Marcelo Ferreira, landed gold in the Star keelboat to recapture the title they won in Atlanta eight years ago.

Experience also proved the key in the men's 470 fleet with Americans Paul Foerster, 40 and Kevin Burnham, 47, edging out their younger British rivals.

Greece, appropriately, had secured the first gold of the regatta, a cacophony of horns greeting Sofia Bekatorou and Aimilia Tsoulfa as they crossed the finish line to win the women's 470 with a race to spare.

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