Maccabi SA News

Joffe Brings Home Pan Am Medal

26 January 2016
Maccabi SA was represented at the recent 13th Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile by two tennis players, lifelong friends Maureen Joffe and Arona Katz.

Joffe and Katz competed in the Masters 60+ doubles event against Argentina, Chile and Peru. They came third but unfortunately did not receive bronze due to a tied ruling. In a late entry for both to the singles event, Arona reached the quarter finals and narrowly missed out on progressing to the semi’s where she would have met Maureen. Joffe went on to win the bronze medal in a tough encounter against Argentina. This takes Team Maccabi SA’s tally to 11 tennis medals overall at the Pan Am Games.

The Pan American regional Maccabi Games are held every four years in a country in the Americas and are organised by the Latin American Maccabi Confederation (CLAM).

Maccabi SA spoke to Maureen prior to her departure for Chile in December 2015 (click here) and caught up with both ladies on their return to SA in January 2016.

Q: Mazel tov Maureen and Arona, we are so proud of you. Firstly, how was the tennis:

AK: It was very, very hot but we persevered. They play on clay courts and I was a bit nervous having had a hip replacement op, but I gave it my best. I wish all the ladies from our 2013 Maccabi Games team could have joined us, we would have cleaned up!

MJ: The heat was incredible. The standard was good and I had a very tough first round singles match that lasted 3.5 hours and then the semi’s took 2.5 hours. Arona and I had not intended on playing singles as at our age it’s obviously a lot harder to run around the court alone. But in the end I am so glad that we did. I was really not expecting to win a medal. It turned out to be a very expensive medal given the exchange rate, but it was absolutely worth it. I would not have missed this experience for anything.

Q: As the oldest competitors at the Games, we hear they gave you a nickname? (Ed: Maureen is in her 60’s and Arona in her 70’s)

AK: They called us the ‘’Golden Girls’’, it was lovely. We shared the bus home after the game with the British Men’s 45+ soccer team. They teased us that the Golden Girls had a medal while they were going home with nothing!

Q: This was your first visit to South America. What is Chile like?

AK: It was a very different but exciting adventure. Chile is a very beautiful country, especially all the snow-capped mountains in the distance. We arrived a week before the Games and spent time exploring Santiago and the surrounds by going on walking tours and catching buses and trains all over the show. We also did a tour up to the mountains where we enjoyed the hot springs.

MJ: It is very beautiful but there is also a stark contrast between rich and poor. The mountain trip was wonderful and I enjoyed the hiking, although it was a bit exhausting and probably not the best idea before playing tennis! The hot springs were very primitive but delightful.

Q: Tell us about your experience at the Games?

AK: The Jewish community are amazing. They really pulled together to host these Games and did an outstanding job. Everyone was so helpful and friendly and looked after us very well. There were some language challenges so we played a lot of charades. We spent Shabbos with a frum family which was very special. The sun sets very late so we only sat down to Shabbat dinner at 10pm.

The Games were well organised. Security was excellent and included both local and Israeli officials. We had police escorts everywhere. It was exciting to meet people that we wouldn’t normally get the chance to interact with, including competitors from Guatemala, Panama, Mexico and Venezuela. There was a large USA contingent who as always were very well resourced and organised.

The Opening Ceremony was very moving, especially when we all sang HaTikvah. They paid tribute to Holocaust survivors and recognised Jewish achievers, it was a memorable experience.

MJ: This was Pan Am’s bar mitzvah (13th) Games so it was very special. It was really fascinating and fun to meet so many Jews from all the different South American countries. The Chileans embraced us and were very hospitable. It was so much more than tennis, the camaraderie was incredible and we received many social invitations.

The security was impressive and all the facilities were excellent. We played tennis at a Jewish youth and family community centre which was wonderful. It would be nice to have something similar in Jo’burg. The food was all kosher and was delicious. I must also mention the volunteers from the Jewish community, I cannot emphasise enough how fantastic they were. And of course, I am very, very proud to come home with this bronze medal.

Q: Arona, we spoke to Maureen previously about her love for tennis. You clearly share the same passion for the sport, and also enjoy keeping fit?

AK: Absolutely. Tennis is very sociable and I enjoy playing at my club in Green Point. It’s not a Jewish club but there are lots of Jewish members. I play 2–3 times a week and also have some coaching. We play in an age group league and it is a lot of fun. I also enjoy swimming in the sea whenever I can.

Q: Arona, your advice for those looking to start doing some exercise?

AK: Do it, don’t sit around and wait to get sick, get active now. I also don’t think it’s whether you win or lose that’s the most important, you must also have fun.

Q: Lastly, will we see you at the 2017 Maccabiah in Israel?

AK: I am getting on but of course I would love to go if I am able. And perhaps even to the 2019 Pan Am Games in Mexico!

MJ: I would definitely like to go, but it depends on my health and fitness, and of course the R/$ rate!

It’s easy to see why Arona and Maureen are such good friends. Their energy, passion and love for tennis, life and adventure is contagious. We are very proud of our Maccabi ‘’Golden Girls’’ who are outstanding role models for younger generations.

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