A two-time Olympian, Yael put judo on the map in Israel, making it one of the most popular sports in the country. At the 1992 Barcelona Games, Arad won Israel's first medal, taking the silver in the half-middleweight class (61-kg). After winning her medal, she dedicated it to the victims of the 1972 Munich Massacre.
Arad returned to the Olympics at the 1996 Atlanta Games and was expected to medal in the half-middleweight class. During the competition, however, she suffered from a viral infection and did not make the finals, but still managed to finish in fifth place. She then was a coach for Israel at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Arad began studying judo at the age of eight, tagging along with her older brother to his lessons. In 1983, at the age of 16, she was the runner-up in the 56-kg class in the German Open for Cadets. Although frustrated, because she thought she should have won the tournament, she believed she could become a world champion. To do this, however, Yael needed to go abroad for training, because in Israel, judo was an underdeveloped and underfinanced sport.
After her stint in the army, Arad found encouragement from past judo champions in Europe. She steadily improved her results and placed second in the German Open in 1988. The following year, she finished third at the European Championships. In 1990, Yael defeated the world No. 1 and No. 2 before losing in the finals and taking home the silver medal at a tournament in Germany.
Arad finished in second place at the 1993 World and European Championships, and placed fifth at the 1995 World Championships. On the eve of the 1996 Olympics, Arad had been Israeli champion 16 times and had competed in 49 international competitions, winning 24 medals; seven gold, eight silver, and nine bronze. In 1997, Yael was elected to the Israeli Olympic Committee as a sports representative. She is also a judo coach in Israel.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. May 1, 1967
Tel Aviv, Israel
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Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)