Rio Olympic medallist Yarden Gerbi competed at the European Championships five times and debuted with a fifth place in 2011 followed by a silver medal in 2012. She always competed U63kg, today’s weight category. Since she retired after the 2016 Games she is in various TV shows, exploring what she wants and at the major tournaments in Israel she is TV analist and interviewer. She wrote a column for Yediot Ahronot.
Gerbi: My life is divided into before and after, Until the year 2016 followed by.
28 years ago, when I was only 3 years old, I watched with my mother at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. It was so spectacular, I felt like I wanted to be there, celebrate together with them and not just watch through the screen.
I immediately asked her: ′′ Mom, how do you buy a ticket to the Olympics?״ But she laughed and replied: ′′ Baby, you can’t buy a ticket, you have to work very, very hard to get there ״.
At the age of 5, I started a ballet class, suddenly I noticed a different class, in the same building, a few rooms next to. After one trial lesson it was already clear to me, the Judo is all I want to be and do, with two Hershko beside me, the coach who will lead me as far as I can imagine.
For years I’ve been struggling, setting my priorities and putting the class that turned career first.
At age 19 I finally win my first significant medal but at age 22 I lose the criteria for the London Olympics, from the lowest place I decide to grow, the road is much longer than I thought but the end goal I want more than ever, so I come back stronger and 2013 becomes the first Israeli woman to win the World Championship.
21 years of moments of loss, disappointment, serious injuries, wins and medals winnings draining for one morning, August 9, 2016.
How can I describe the feeling to you? My heart rests on the mat, refuses to regulate a pulse, this day is at the sign of ′′ all or nothing ′′ but I’m not alone, everywhere I raise my eyes to I feel how an entire country stands steadfast together with me, supports and encourages, wants this victory for me, for us.
The moment of announcing the victory in the bronze medal was the best prepared in my life, the first move I made right after I wiped my tears was to point to the Israel flag, the one that embroidered on my Judo gi, where the heart is also. It takes me a while to process that I fulfilled my biggest dream, that I marked V on the goal I put first, I am the happiest in man, and nothing can ruin that for me.
From that moment until today you have never stopped embracing, complimenting, encouraging, loving unconditionally, empathizing and supporting in any path I chose. I continue to feel you, in meetings, lectures and meetings on the street, I received solid proof that our unity, giving and mutual guarantee are unique qualities here in Israel, and no one, either a stubborn virus, will be able to take it away from us.
Are we celebrating 73 for the country and after such a year? I wish us health first and foremost, and may you be steadfast, may we continue to reach each other, may we find the way for help and cooperation, may we move forward to districts of success and empowerment and remember to cherish thanks!