Yael Arad in 2009
|Born||May 1, 1967|
Tel Aviv, Israel
|Spouse(s)||Lior Kahane (m. 1995)|
|Updated on February 11, 2014.|
Yael Arad (Hebrew: יעל ארד; born May 1, 1967) is an Israeli judoka. She was the first Israeli to win an Olympic medal. She is widely recognized as one of Israel's most successful athletes and is credited with bringing judo into the athletic mainstream.
Arad, who is Jewish, was born in Tel Aviv, Israel. She started taking judo classes at the age of eight and within half a year, ranked second in Israel in her weight class. She later trained with the coach of the men's judo team. In 1995, Arad married Lior Kahane (son of Israeli basketball coach Rani Kahane).
International judo career
Arad won her first international title in 1984 at the age of 17, competing as a middleweight. She came in 7th in the world judo championships in Vienna. In 1989, 1990 and 1991, she won medals in the European championships. To hone her skills, she underwent training in Japan.
Arad was the first Israeli athlete to win an Olympic medal when she competed at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. She won the silver medal in the half middleweight competition. She lost to Catherine Fleury of France. Arad dedicated the medal to the victims of the 1972 Munich Massacre.
In 1993, she won a gold medal in the European championships. In the world championships that year, she lost in the finals to Gella van de Caveye of Belgium, taking home a silver medal.
After winning her Olympic medal, Arad wrote:
Thursday, July 30, 1992. A fateful day, a watershed day, a day of fame, a day of self-fulfillment. A day that required fifteen years of hard work, endless investment and hidden self-confidence. The day I won the Olympic silver medal. My medal. The first medal of the State of Israel. … I went onto the mat like a stormy wind, after a warm-up that drove from my body all the little demons that threatened to defeat me even before it all began. The first match was against a woman from Spain who had already defeated me twice in the past, but it was clear to me that this time she had no chance. I went off after four minutes, the winner. The second match was against a woman from the Czech Republic. We knew each other well and we both knew I was better. The victory over her contributed a bit more to building confidence for the tough and significant match of the day. Four minutes were all that stood between myself and my life’s dream. … When the match started, the semi-finals, I was there with all my battle gear. And suddenly, it was all over. I had won. … Emotionally it was the highest moment of my life and despite my losing later in the finals the victory in the semi-finals against the woman from Germany was the sweetest of all. That day I changed from a person who wanted to a person who could. And that made all the difference.
After retiring from the sport, Arad continued with judo as a coach and sports entrepreneur. Today she holds a key management position in a children's product company and serves as a TV commentator at judo competitions.
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