Yael Arad is an athlete, which was the first Israeli to win an Olympic medal, and by that- became an Israel icon. She was born in Tel-Aviv in 1967, and started practicing in Judo as a child, back in a time when it was not a mainstream sport in Israel. For lack of judo partners, she trained with the coach of the men's team in Israel, and also trained in Europe and Japan. In 1984, at the age of 17, Arad won her first international title in a middleweight competition.
She came in 7th in the world judo championships in Vienna. In 1989, 1990 and 1991, she won medals in the European championships. In 1992, at the Olympic games in Barcelona, Arad won the silver medal in Judo half-middleweight. With that achievement, she became the first Israeli athlete to win an Olympic medal. In 1993, she won a gold medal in the European championships. At the world championships that year, she took home the silver medal. At the Maccabiah Games of the same year, Arad was chosen to light the torch.
She finished in second place at the 1993 World and European Championships and fifth at the 1995 World Championships.She also participated in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, but lost to Jung Sung-Sook of Korea, competing for the bronze. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, she served as a judo coach for Israel.
In 1997, Arad was elected as one of the sports representatives to sit on the Israeli Olympic Committee. Today, she coaches judo, serves as a TV commentator at judo competition and working to promote sports for women.
A short documentary about Yael Arad
Yael Arad and Catherine Fleury on the battle for the Golden medal at the 1992 Olympic Games