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Israeli kiteboarder who won gold medal in Oman says organizers hushed up her win

Gal Zukerman, 18, says Israel’s team participated ‘under the radar’ in competition last week, and authorities barred winners from playing anthem, showing flag

Gal Zukerman is seen kiteboarding. (Screenshot: Instagram).
Gal Zukerman is seen kiteboarding. (Screenshot: Instagram).

When Israeli kiteboarder Gal Zukerman won gold at the Youth Sailing World Championships last week, her national anthem, “Hatikvah,” did not play, and the Israeli flag was nowhere to be seen, as the host country of Oman has limited diplomatic relations with Israel.

In an interview with Channel 12 news, published Friday, 18-year-old Zukerman said her victory “caused a bit of a mess.”

“When it was already clear that I was winning the gold, everyone’s anthems were canceled, because of me,” she told the network.

“I really wanted to tell family, mom and dad, and friends I had won, but I could not, I was forbidden. Nobody knew about the achievement in real-time,” she added.

On Saturday, a day after her victory, the Kan public broadcaster reported the win.

“The competition’s site did not post our photos or announce us. We were there under the radar. One of the Israeli union’s agreements with the competition organizers, so that we could get there, was that we would walk around without flags and that if a competitor from Israel got on the podium, they would do it without the state flag,” she said.

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A post shared by Gal Zukerman גל צוקרמן (@galzukermann)

The Youth Sailing World Championships official site posted the results on its official sites by Friday.

Still, Zukerman said that she was grateful to the organizers of the competition, telling Channel 12 she was sure they “didn’t sleep for nights” to ensure she could participate.

The kiteboarder also said she and the team were welcomed in Oman.

“In Oman itself we were treated well and were received well. The locals tried to treat us like any other competitor,” she said. “In addition, the local director of the competition continuously checked in on us Israelis.”

Zukerman was not the only Israeli to win a medal at the contest in Mussanah, as sailors Roy Levi and Ariel Gal came in third in the 420 Dinghy race.

Men’s and women’s kiteboarding events will take place for the first time at the upcoming Paris Olympics.

The reasons for the contest’s limitations on Israelis were not entirely clear; Oman has been touted as another Arab country that could potentially forge full diplomatic ties with Israel.

Oman expressed its support for the Israel-UAE normalization deal the day after it was announced last year and was also quick to welcome Israel’s ties with Bahrain.

Then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman in 2018, the first trip by an Israeli leader in over two decades, in what was seen as a sign of warming ties between the Jewish state and the Sunni Arab world.

He was hosted at the time by Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who died last year and was succeeded by his cousin Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, who appeared to have continued his country’s openness to Israel.

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