Maccabiah athletes reach their moment of truth
Maccabiah 2013: Results

Maccabiah athletes reach their moment of truth

While the swimming comes to an end, the track-and-field events don’t disappoint — and team sports head to knockout stages

The women's soccer team of the Netherlands (photo credit: Courtesy)
The women's soccer team of the Netherlands (photo credit: Courtesy)

The 2013 Maccabiah has passed the halfway point, and the much-anticipated gymnastics and track-and-field events didn’t disappoint. In addition, the popular basketball, futsal and soccer tournaments are getting closer to the medal rounds.

In Caesarea, medals were handed out to the Jewish golfers Thursday, with the US men’s and women’s teams taking gold in their categories.

While the US women’s team beat Israel by two strokes to clinch first, the masters team failed to repeat the accomplishment, coming in second — three strokes behind the blue-and-white. The two teams were also prominent in the individual categories, with their members winning most of the medals.

Thursday also marked the last day of the swimming events at the 19th Maccabiah. After four days of competition at Wingate’s newly renovated Olympic pool, the results were clear: US Olympic medalist Garrett Weber-Gale swam fast, but he wasn’t enough in team efforts, which were dominated by Israel.

Two national records were broken (and re-set) by blue-and-white swimmers during the competition, as were an additional six Maccabiah records.

Around the world women’s soccer has been expanding globally, and, accordingly, it has also grown in this year’s Maccabiah. The Netherlands and Argentina sent a team for the first time in the history of the Games, but the Netherlands squad is not your typical one.

The Netherlands didn’t have enough women to send to the Women’s Open category, so it came up with an unconventional solution — combine the junior, open and masters teams into one squad. The result? A team whose youngest member is 14, and whose oldest is 44.

Despite losing every game in the Maccabiah thus far, 44-year-old veteran Yolanda Barend says the experience is worth it.

“The girls and I have had an amazing time so far and even though we have lost our games, we are having a really fun time with each other and we are really enjoying our time in Israel,” said Barend.

Shira Agami, one of the younger players on the team, also insists that there is more to the experience than the final score. “Meeting people from all over the world is amazing. I have already made friends from a few countries and to me that makes the experience worth it.”

The rigorous schedule has taken its toll on the Dutch team, however. The team has a game almost every day. “We are not professional athletes,” said Barend. “We are amateurs and playing 90 minutes in this heat has brought us a few serious injuries.” The players also wish they would have had more time to travel across Israel.

In judo, Israeli Archy Wolfman has had a very difficult year-and-a-half. Wolfman ended in 8th place at the 2011 Judo World Cup, but in early 2012, tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in Israel’s national judo championships.

Over the past year, Wolfman has been working hard to get back into fighting shape. His hard work paid off Wednesday afternoon: He won his first-ever Maccabiah gold medal in Jerusalem’s Ziv Hall in the 90-kg open category. It was his first competition since his injury.

“It was great to get back and compete after not being able to compete for over a year. After a long break from the sport, I was able to bounce back and get a gold medal for my first competition since the injury,” the judoka told The Times of Israel.

Now that Wolfman is completely healthy, he will begin training for the 2013 Judo World Cup in Belarus and will also try to qualify for a world tournament due to be held in Georgia in 2014.

The track-and-field finals began Wednesday at Hadar Yosef’s Olympic stadium. In the most anticipated event of the night — the 400-meter run — Israeli Donald Sanford and Australian Olympic finalist Steven Solomon battled it out for the gold medal. In the end, Sanford held off his Australian rival with a time of 45.6 seconds to Solomon’s 46.2 seconds.

While Solomon lost the race, the Australian delegation had several reasons to be pleased: Its junior team members made a statement in their various races, winning the delegation from Down Under over a dozen medals.

Preliminary rounds for Women’s Gymnastics began on Wednesday at Hadar Yosef. Over the next few days, all eyes will be on Israel’s Ofir Nezer, who reached the finals in this year’s European Championships.

With the end of the week comes the end of many individual contests — including swimming, track-and-field, wrestling, and judo — and the start of the knockout rounds in team sports. Soccer, basketball, netball and volleyball will all reach their peak after the weekend.

Team Israel’s Cinderella baseball run came to an end Thursday when Canada defeated them 3-1 in an extra innings. Canada will now go up against America for the gold.

In soccer, the Men’s Open quarter-finals began on Thursday night. The United States defeated Germany 7-0, and Argentina beat Israel 1-0.

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