By Chandrea Serebro

With the world windsurfing champion title firmly under her belt, 21-year-old Sharon Kantor has turned her energies to an achievement at the Olympic Games, where she will represent Israel in Marseille in July.

Born and raised in Moshav Avihayil, Sharon is an Israeli success story with its roots in the southern hemisphere. Her mother and father, originally from Australia and South Africa respectively, both moved to Israel at five years old, bringing the deeply ingrained culture and love of sport and competition from their birth countries with them. So it is a small wonder that Sharon grew up in a household where sports wasn’t just a pastime but a way of life.

Israeli windsurfing World Champion, Sharon Kantor, attributes her love of sport to her South African and Australian roots. The Dinte family (her mother’s family) made Aliyah from Sydney, Australia in the 70s and the Kantor family made Aliyah from South Africa in 1970.

With a love of the sea and the water shared by all the Kantor family members, it was her older brother who first ventured into sailing, followed by her older sister and then Sharon herself, who was finally joined by her younger brother and sister. After dabbling throughout her childhood in a myriad of other sports, including tennis, basketball, surfing, horse riding, and athletics, and excelling in both athletics and windsurfing, Sharon soon realised that pursuing two different sports and school was too challenging. She gave up athletics and spent her energies on windsurfing, a decision that would be pivotal.

By 18, Sharon had already honed her skill to the top of her game and amassed an impressive collection of medals from European and World Championships. She proudly held the title of European Champion in the under-17 category, and in the same year, clinched third place in the World Championships. Sharon moved up to the senior category, along with seven other girls all vying for the Olympic ticket which Sharon has now set in her sights. Each country is represented by only one competitor.

The road to securing her spot as the Israeli athlete in the Olympic Games was fraught with challenges and self-doubt for Sharon, not least because for her, competing at the Olympics is not just about winning medals but also about honouring the heritage that runs deep in her family. “I know that I am good, but I felt that I wasn’t quite good enough to be the best for Israel.” The level of the Israeli team is high –according to Sharon, in fact, amongst the best in the world – and Sharon would need to be the best of the best to qualify.

However, her determination and perseverance shone through. After facing a week of intense competition at the World Championships earlier this year, all the while knowing she needed a podium finish to secure her spot, Sharon clinched the title of World Champion for 2024. “Standing on that podium, draped in the Israeli flag alongside my fellow competitor Katy Spychakov, was a moment of pure elation and fulfillment.”

“Think about what warms your heart and makes you feel good, and go for it,” Sharon encourages, with an enthusiasm she hopes will help others reach for their dreams. “Go with your passions, but at the same time enjoy the journey.” For Sharon, the journey helped her grow immensely. “It takes time and effort to become a professional athlete,” she reflects. “You learn a lot and you gain values and lessons that one can only get from sports.” Whether it is finding your independence or being able to make big, life-altering decisions, pushing yourself to the edge or learning to understand yourself better, Sharon’s journey has led her to embody the spirit of a true athlete. She reminds us all that the path to greatness is often filled with challenges, but it is these challenges that make the victory all the more sweet.