Maccabi SA News

SA finishes 6th on medals table, out of 42 countries, at EMG 2019

15 August 2019
#TeamMaccabiSA performed exceptionally well at the 15th European Maccabi Games (EMG) which took place in Budapest, Hungary from 30 July – 06 August 2019.

South Africa was one of eight non-European countries invited to the 2019 Games, which also included Israel. Maccabi SA took a delegation of 88 athletes and officials and competed in futsal, half-marathon, swimming, table tennis and tennis. The team was cheered on by a supporters group of over 70 family and friends.

The team brought home 69 medals, which comprised two futsal, two half-marathon, 14 tennis and 51 swimming medals. SA finished in 6th place on the medals table, out of 42 countries, with ranking based on gold medals (total/gold): USA (155/75), Hungary (100/49), Germany (101/41), Great Britain (87/36), Lithuania (62/25) and South Africa (69/17). SA finished 5th in terms of total medals won.

The breakdown of SA medals was as follows:

  • Gold: 17 (swimming 15, half marathon 1, tennis 1)
  • Silver: 24 (swimming 18, tennis 5, futsal 1)
  • Bronze: 28 (swimming 18, tennis 8, futsal 1, half marathon 1)

This is an outstanding achievement for the team, which was more than 60% smaller than the delegations who finished above them, each with well over 200 athletes (excluding Lithuania).

The u16 Futsal team narrowly missed out on the gold after a very tightly fought contest, losing to Great Britain 5-3 after extra time and penalties. Coach Byron Cottle, who coaches the SA u20 team, was thrilled with the result. ‘’Our goal was to reach the final of EMG and win a medal, and while it may not be gold, the boys came so very close and gave 110%. I could not be prouder of them,’’ said Cottle.

The u18 team, who won bronze at the Maccabiah in 2017, did well to fight back to win bronze once again, after a difficult start to the tournament.

Maccabi SA Futsal Convenor Ronen Cohen, attending his 8th Maccabi Games, was proud of their results. ‘’To have had representation in all the age groups for Futsal was an achievement in itself. After two long years of grit, sweat & tears, our u16 & u18’s performed extremely well. I am super proud of them and look forward with great excitement to Israel 2021 to see what they can accomplish. Our Open & Masters teams unfortunately didn’t fare as well as expected, but absolutely gave of their best and that’s all I can ask for as convenor. EMG 2019 was a fantastic experience and the boys had great fun, making memories which we will cherish forever!”

In the half marathon, Durbanite Adam Lipschitz won gold in a blistering time of 1:07:48, which was 14 minutes faster than the 2nd placed athlete. Greg Cohen received a bronze medal as the 3rd placed non-European athlete. “I am very happy with my time and performance. It was a bit of a technical race and my tactics paid off,’’ said Adam who led the pack from the starting gun.

The Maccabi SA swimming team achieved a remarkable haul of 51 medals, including 15 gold, 18 silver and 18 bronze. SA came third on the medals table, after USA and Hungary, and although winning fewer golds than Hungary, beat this swimming powerhouse in terms of total medals 51 to 29.

Every team member won at least three medals, including the youngest swimmers, 13-year-olds Matt Whitesman and Michael Hendler. Thirteen of the medals were won in relays. Open swimmer Jaden Harris, who is ranked in the SA Top 20, bagged 12 medals, including six golds, and teammate Benji Sack won nine medals, of which eight were gold. Jaden also contributed to Team Manager duties, together with parents Brent and Lauren Henegan.

Nationally ranked swimmer Daniella Solkow won 11 medals, including four golds. Her dad Richard has also an impressive Maccabi CV, having previously won three gold medals and a silver for rugby, as both player and coach.

The swim team were especially fortunate to have their Cape-based Hungarian Coach, Csanad Feldhausz on tour with them. Csanad grew up training at the Alfréd Hajós National Swimming Stadium on Margaret Island, where EMG took place. After putting in the requisite hours of training every day, he treated the team to a comprehensive tour of Budapest, including all the top tourist sites, as well as importantly visiting Holocaust memorials.

‘’I am so proud of the time put in, dedication and commitment from our swimmers. We challenged them every step of the way and they responded with these excellent results. It was also such a special experience to be able to share my love for my country with the team, I hope they left with great memories of Budapest and an even greater passion for swimming,’’ commented Feldhausz.

In table tennis, the lone SA entrant Simon Dimant won the Masters Singles consolation match, with the 69-year-old playing against much younger opposition throughout the tournament. He teamed up with a Serbian and British player to contest the Team category, finishing 6th out of eight teams. In Doubles, Simon and his Serbian partner lost in the 2nd round to the Danish top seeds.

The Maccabi SA Tennis team performed exceptionally well, considering most of them had never played on clay courts before. With little time to practice, the Junior girls adapted quickly and won three bronze medals, with the delegation’s youngest athlete, 12-year-old Gia Fine reaching the quarter finals against much older and more experienced opposition.

‘’The Juniors had an amazing time at EMG. They did well to win four medals, especially as it was their first time on clay. The players from Cape Town and Jo’burg became a unified team, which is what Maccabi is all about, bringing the community together. Beyond the tennis, the experience was very special, including the shul service and Danube tour. Overall it was a truly memorable trip for the team,’’ commented Junior coach Brad Bloch.

In the Open category, Capetonian Josh Luck, who also served as Junior Team Manager, reached the final of the Men’s Singles, unfortunately losing to Great Britain. However, the number one seed came back fighting together with his partner Aaron Marks, winning gold in the Men’s Doubles final against Great Britain, 7-5 6-1.

“EMG 2019 has been a great tournament and I am very proud of what all the juniors have achieved. They are a dedicated and passionate bunch of young players and I look forward to seeing what they can do on the courts in the future,’’ said Luck. ATP ranked Josh is taking some time off to heal from an injury, before competing again on the circuit and then returning to university in Israel.

The Maccabi SA Masters tennis team put on an impressive display at EMG, winning four silver and four bronze medals. In the 35+ age category, Elian Wiener won bronze in the Singles backdraw at his first Maccabi Games, and bronze with his partner (and 2017 futsal medal winner) Louis Zive, in the Men’s Masters Doubles.

In the 45+ category, Rob Sulcas courageously hung on to win silver in the Men’s Singles, despite a painful injury. Together with Junior team coach Brad Bloch, he won bronze in the Men’s Doubles. Rob has now won five Maccabi Tennis medals in total, together with a squash medal as a Junior. In a proud family performance, Rob’s sons Benji and Jamie also won futsal medals. Brad Bloch stepped up last minute to partner Anna Yearson from Argentina, to win silver in the Mixed Doubles.

In the 55+ category, SA’s ladies ruled the courts. Although they should have been playing in the 65+ category, they competed admirably against the ‘’youngsters’’, with Lynn Gottschalk winning her 6th Maccabi medal, taking the silver in Singles, and together with Anthula Markovitz winning silver in the Doubles, their third Maccabi doubles medal. Anthula also won bronze in the Singles backdraw.

Past and present pupils from Herzlia Middle and High Schools dominated on the medals table, making up the bulk of the swimming and u16 and u18 futsal teams. King David Victory Park pupils (futsal, swimming) and Linksfield (swimming, tennis) also won medals.

Maccabi SA Chairman Cliff Garrun was thrilled with the team’s results. ‘’To come 5th in total medals against countries with far bigger delegations and who have significantly more resources, including teams of full-time staff, is an exceptional achievement. All the hard work and training that our athletes put in paid off, and they really did South Africa proud. Hearty mazeltov to all on this outstanding result,’’ said Garrun.

‘’As always, we also extend our sincere thanks to the team of volunteers who are the heart and soul of Maccabi – the LOC, coaches, managers, convenors and medical personnel who so generously give of their time and skills. Without them these events and results would not be possible. I would also like to thank and commend our hard-working Sports Director Jarred Gronemann for providing the valuable office support for our volunteer teams,’’ added Garrun.

‘’My thanks also to the devoted group of parents, many of whom were in Budapest, who really go above and beyond to give their children every opportunity to thrive and succeed. Kol hakavod to you all,’’ said Garrun.

#TeamMaccabiSA’s Head of Delegation, Elan Sawitzky praised the team for their performance. ‘’We knew we had a good chance of winning some medals, but 69 is off the charts. In addition to a great performance, the team were also excellent ambassadors for our country and demonstrated our values of sportsmanship, teamwork and respect. We are immensely proud of what they have achieved.’’

‘’I would also like to thank our volunteer medical team of Dr Danella Eliasov and physiotherapists Evan Speechly, Farrell Cohen, Sholem Lange and Lorenzo Meyer, whose skills and sporting expertise ensured our athletes could perform at their best,’’ added Sawitzky.

First held in Prague in 1929, and since the end of the 1970’s hosted every four years in a different European city, the 15th edition of EMG was the biggest to date. The event featured 2311 participants from 42 countries competing in 24 sports.

For the first time in the 90-year history of EMG, official sports federations facilitated the organisation of the events and the authentication of the results. These included the Hungarian Futsal, Swimming, Table Tennis and Tennis Associations.

EMG was not only a sporting event but also a Jewish cultural celebration. The teams experienced a unique Shabbat service at the famous Dohány Street Synagogue. Known as the Great Synagogue of Budapest, it was completed in 1859 and is the largest synagogue in Europe, seating 3000 people. They also took part in an ‘’Israeli Night’’ party, toured the city’s Jewish Quarter and attended educational lectures at the city’s Holocaust memorials.

At the festive Closing Ceremony, Motti Tichauer head of EMG and ‘’team captain’’ thanked the leaders of Budapest, the Hungarian authorities, sponsors, organisers, volunteers and participants for the successful ten days of EMG 2019. ‘’Once again Maccabi has united the Jewish communities worldwide” he said. He officially closed the Games and invited everyone to Maccabiah 2021 in Israel. Am Yisrael Chai.

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