As the 19th Israeli Maccabiah Games draw to close, over 20,000 exuberant spectators, participants and VIPs filled Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on July 30 to take part in the biggest party in the history of the Maccabiah games.
As the third largest sporting event in the world, the Maccabiah games drew over 9000 athletes from around the globe as well as tens of thousands of fans at a panoply of sporting events.
The closing ceremonies that moved to a pulsating rhythm were directed by Ronen Peled and produced by Ilan Faktor and included performances by internationally recognized disc jockeys along with top named Israeli artists such as “Infected Mushroom,” “Balkan Beat Box,”, “Offer Nissim,” “TYP,”, “Riff Cohen,” and “Orphaned Land.”
As the competition results were announced and the medal winners accorded their honors, a number of athletes distinguished themselves throughout the Maccabiah.
Duke University senior Laetitia Beck competed in the golf event at the Maccabiah Games by claiming two gold medals in her home country of Israel. Beck, who is a native of Caesarea, Israel, turned in three straight rounds of 69 for Israel on her way to cruising to the individual title with a 54-hole total of 207. The next closest golfer was Portland Rosen from the USA with a three-day total of 222.
In the team standings, Beck and her country of Israel won the title with rounds of 228, 229 and 223 to claim the title by two strokes over the United States. Israel turned in a 54-hole total of 680, while USA (682), Sweden (702) and Switzerland (835) closed the field. All action was played at the Caesarea Golf Club in Caesarea, Israel
Drew Edelman, an incoming freshman for the women's basketball team at the University of Southern California helped lead the U.S. squad to a gold-medal finish at the competition in Israel. She was a member of the USA's 15-18 girls' team. She scored 15 points when the United States first faced Canada during preliminary action, then later doubled up on that effort with a 30-point game in the final. Edelman also served up 18 points in the prelims against Australia, then added 19 when the teams met again in the semifinals. Against Israel in preliminary play, Edelman scored 27 points for her Team USA squad.
The Maccabiah Games, however, are not only about winning medals and breaking records. Equestrian rider Carly Goldstein, 16, of Voorhees, New Jersey showed everyone the character and determination of a true champion, even without making it to the podium at the Maccabiah Games.
During a competition last year, Goldstein fell off her horse and broke her back in three different places. Goldstein and her family didn't know how severe her spinal injury was at the time, however. "I learned my back was broken only four days before we came to Israel. I decided to come here anyway and try to compete, but once I started riding my horse in the competition, I felt my back couldn't hold me, I felt numbness in my back and had to retire," she said.
The relationship between a rider and her horse is very important and on top her injury, her horse was ill just a few hours before the competition on Tuesday and could not compete. To overcome this hurdle, Goldstein was paired with a different horse. Despite training with the horse for only a short time, she decided to compete in the medium level dressage.
The judges and the rest of her competitors waited patiently for Goldstein to enter the arena. And although she wasn't able to finish the competition, the rest of the teams and fans didn't stop cheering her on for her efforts. "When I couldn't ride, the American, Israeli, Mexican, Chilean and the rest of the teams cheered so hard I got so excited. I thank them so much."
Goldstein was given a chance to compete again on Wednesday, but her back injury kept her out of the contest. "It's very unfortunate I couldn't carry on because I came here to ride, but my injury made it impossible. I'm still very happy being here with my teammates and the rest of the delegation." Fellow Americans Wendy Garfinkle and June Brody, both of Tewksbury Township, New Jersey finished in the fifth and eighth positions respectively in the equestrian competition. This is the first time the Maccabiah Games have included equestrian sports.
Australia came to the finals with the goal of reclaiming their gold medal in rugby from 2009, but the determination of the Israeli team won the gold for Israel, for the first time ever. The rugby finals between Israel and Australia were also the last Maccabiah event that took place on Monday evening, July 29. About 2500 spectators watched the game in the rugby stadium at Wingate. A big part of the crowd was wearing yellow, as half of the Australian delegation attended the game.
Israeli fans also came to support the local team and the game was conducted in a good atmosphere. The crowd got the chance to see a great game and an historical Israeli win in the rugby tournament.
Just like in the women’s competition, the men's final in basketball brought about a rematch from the preliminaries – USA vs. Argentina. But this time, the American team learned the lesson from its loss to Argentina earlier in the tournament, and won 87:76. Argentina got the silver and Israel the bronze after beating France. All in all, Team USA had an excellent night, winning the gold in both the men and women’s basketball event and men’s soccer.
In the women’s final, USA completed the double after defeating Israel 72-56, behind 22 points from Jacqueline Kalin and Alyssa Baron. For Israel, Orian Amsalem and Rebecca Ross scored 10 each.
In the sport of Futsal, Brazil took the gold after a thrilling match which was decided in a penalty shootout, after 2-2 in regular time. Israel beat Argentina 4-3 with a winning goal by Adam Cohen, and settled for the bronze medal.
USA beat Argentina 4-3 in a penalty shootout in the men’s open final of the football event. Canada took the bronze with a 3-2 win over Mexico. In the women’s, the Americans crashed Israel 6-1 and added another gold. Canada took the bronze.
In tennis, Libi Mesh from Israel took the gold after beating Maayan Sela 6:4 6:2. Marcel Felder from Uruguay won the men’s tournament with a win over David Suaper from Australia 6:1 6:4.
Some final numbers: overall, the Games included 4,431 matches and events in all stages and categories. They included 35 men’s and 34 women’s competitions, as well as 8 mixed events (such as the mixed doubles in tennis). They took place in 76 different venues. 7,040 athletes and about 2,000 coaches and staff members (overall, about 9,000 people participated in the Games.