Israeli Moran Samuel won a silver medal at the World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida on Sunday.
Samuel completed the women’s Paralympic 2,000 meter race in just over 11 minutes and 20 seconds, setting a new Israeli record.
“It’s always fun to win,” the 35-year-old told a friend who was filming her after she crossed the finish line. “I gave it my all and I’m happy I came away with a medal.”
Norway’s Birgit Skarstein, 28, of Norway took home the competition’s first place prize, and Germany’s 50-year-old Sylvia Pille-Steppart won the bronze.
The rower won her country’s first medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, taking third place in women’s 1000-meter single sculls.
Samuel only took up rowing in 2010; and in 2012, she came in fifth at the London Paralympic event. In 2015, she won gold at the World Cup event in Lake Varese, Italy.
She had been a member of Israel’s national basketball team until 2006, when she suffered a spinal stroke and became paralyzed in her lower body.
“One morning I was hanging out my laundry,” Samuel recalled in an interview with Walla News after her Rio gold medal win. 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. At 24, with a promising basketball career ahead, doctors told her she had suffered a rare spinal stroke. “In one moment, my body was erased,” she said.
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 under coach Paula Grizzetti, but also trains at the Daniel Rowing Center in Tel Aviv.