ATHENS -- His name means 'wave' in Hebrew and what a ride this wave is giving Israel.
Yesterday, windsurfer Gal Fridman won the first Olympic gold medal in Israel's history and its sixth medal ever.
Even here at the Agios Kosmas Olympic Sailing Centre, officials, spectators and journalists got a taste of the kind of joy this medal has brought to the war-ravaged country as every accredited Israeli journalist in Greece was here to see if history would be made. When it was, with Fridman's win in men's mistral, everyone here knew something historic had happened.
Fridman, 28, was already a popular figure in his tiny country but Israelis here say he will ride a tidal wave of fame and good fortune if that's what he wants.
Fridman sailed consistently during this 11-race series, never finishing worse than eighth on a course with shifting light winds.
He placed second in yesterday's race, winning him the gold after Ricardo Santos of Brazil, the leader through 10 races, finished 17th in the finale. Nikolaos Kaklamanakis of Greece won the silver and Nick Dempsey of Britain took the bronze.
As soon as the 6-ft. Fridman crossed the finish line, he threw himself into the waters of the Saronic Gulf. When he bobbed to the surface, he wrapped himself in an Israeli flag as he pulled himself out of the turquoise waters.
"I felt the whole of Israel supporting me," Fridman said following his race. "I felt like the whole country was pumping the sail for me."
Oded David Kramer, sports editor of Israel's largest daily newspaper, Yediot Aharonoth, said to help the rest of us understand how huge this wave is in Israel right now, his newspaper is dedicating the first seven pages to this victory.
"The last time seven pages in a row was dedicated to one story -- and this is not going to sound good or right -- was when 35 people were killed in a terrorist bomb attack," said Kramer, who admitted he was having troubles writing his column because it means so much more than a gold medal.
"It's not an Olympic gold story," said an emotional Kramer. "It's much more. It's about just trying to be normal.
"We suffer a lot," he adds with a shrug, "so everytime there is a reason to celebrate, we grasp it and go all the way with it. We have not had too many athletic victories on the world stage, so this is a very happy, happy day."
At night, during the medal ceremony, most of the Israelis present wept as they sang the words of their national anthem Hatikvah, which means The Hope.
Fridman, the bronze medallist in mistral at the 1996 Atlanta Games, took two years off after he failed to make the Israeli national team for the Sydney Olympics.
But when he came back, the three-time Olympian didn't mince words when he declared his goal. Last year, Fridman stated clearly he is returning to the sport to "win gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens."
Fridman told Israeli reporters in Hebrew after his race, he often thought of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were murdered during the 1972 Olympic games in Munich by a Palestinian terrorist group called Black September.
He vowed when he returns home, he will visit the memorial built in the honour of those slain Olympians and will show them his gold medal.
"We have a very long history," said Kramer.
"And this will go down in history. I can tell my children I was here when this happened."