Israeli Paralympic rower Moran Samuel won her country’s first medal at the 2016 Games, taking third place in women’s 1000-meter single sculls three days into the competition in Rio.

The gold medal went to Great Britain’s Rachel Morris, who set a new Paralympic record time of 5:13.69.

China’s Lili Wang took silver with 5:16.65. Samuel’s bronze was won in the time of 5:17.46.

Samuel, 34, only took up rowing in 2010. In 2012 she came fifth in the London Paralympic event. In 2015 she won gold at the World Cup event in Lake Varese, Italy.

Moran Samuel had been a member of Israel’s national basketball team until the day in 2006 that she suffered a spinal stroke and became paralyzed in her lower body.

“One morning I was hanging out my laundry,” Samuel recalled. Out of nowhere, she felt “a sudden sharp pain in my back and I couldn’t breathe.”

Samuel called an ambulance and went to lie down. By the time the medical team arrived, she couldn’t move her legs and had to be carried on a stretcher. On the way to the hospital “I kept punching my legs” but couldn’t feel anything, the athlete told Walla News years later. At 24, with a promising basketball career ahead, she had suffered a rare spinal stroke. “In one moment my body was erased.”

Moran Samuel after her medal-winning race in Rio, September 11, 2016 (IGOR MEIJER, courtesy Daniel Rowing Center)

Moran Samuel after her medal-winning race in Rio, September 11, 2016 (IGOR MEIJER, courtesy Daniel Rowing Center)

The talented athlete had to adapt to a new life, but she didn’t give up her love of sports. In fact, she kept playing basketball with the national wheelchair team and, eventually, took up a solo sport as well. After much persuasion by her life partner (now wife), Limor Goldberg, Samuel took up rowing.

She does most of her training in Italy, coached by Paula Grizzetti. She also trains at the Daniel Rowing Center in Tel Aviv.

Established in 1948 by a Jewish doctor who escaped Nazi Germany, the Paralympics used to be known as “parallel” or “special” Olympics.

In previous years Israel has won a total of 380 Paralympic medals, putting it thirteenth on the list of medal-winning countries.

More than 30 Israeli athletes are competing in the 2016 Paralympics in a range of events including tennis, table tennis, goalball, rowing, sailing and swimming.