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Durban runner scores silver at SA Championships

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Sport

Adam Lipschitz, 27, is soaring high after scoring a silver and fourth place for his races at the South African Championships at Tuks Athletics Stadium last week.

“I’m happy with the positions, but want to improve on times,” the ambitious and driven athlete says, reflecting on his performance at the Athletics South Africa senior track and field national event.

In the 10 000m race, Lipschitz came second with a time of 29:30:40, and in the 5 000m, fourth, with a time of 14:01.

When he is successful in a race, Lipschitz appreciates the long road of consistent effort it has taken to achieve the result.

“Running is an individual sport so what you put in is what you get out. With running, there is no time to rest, you have to give it your all from the get-go. If you aren’t in shape, it will show in your race from your position. When you are fit and winning, you are grateful for the training that you have put in.”

Although no one enjoys losing, Lipschitz says he takes the opportunity when he doesn’t achieve his goals to think about the adjustments he can make. “You reflect, then you act on it in training.”

The born-and-bred Durbanite, who runs his own property investment and management business, says that while COVID-19 has curtailed participation in many international events, his sights are on the horizon – possibly even the Olympics in the years ahead. His dream is to train for the marathon race in this event.

In the interim, he’s looking forward, hopefully, to participation in the upcoming World Athletics Championships in America, then Commonwealth Games, as well as next year’s Maccabi Games – an arena in which he has already had astonishing success.

Lipschitz has been running since primary school, representing South Africa in his high-school years, and continuing at university level.

He trains every morning as part of a disciplined schedule. He doesn’t work with a coach, instead choosing to “use a lot of different programmes that I’ve taken over the years that work for me”.

Running remains a form of meditation for him. “You have time to yourself. I run alone in the morning. It’s when I’m without my phone, no music, just running round the athletics track. It’s time to think about life and any problems, time to evaluate. I enjoy it.”

Ultimately, the sport has taught him powerful life lessons. “It has taught me self-control, self-discipline, and to stay motivated.”

Lipschitz says his family and running club are very supportive, and he is particularly appreciative of his parents’ support over the years.

He comes from a traditionally Jewish family. “I practice the faith, and it’s very much a part of my identity,” and enjoys giving back to the community via the Community Security Organisation and through involvement in Maccabi in KwaZulu-Natal. His other big passion is the administrative side of sport, and he is hoping to be part of making changes provincially in this arena.

Besides having the opportunity to travel internationally, Lipschitz says it has also been amazing to travel to all nine provinces of South Africa through running. “It’s a beautiful country,” he says. The Transkei is his favourite destination so far.

Lipschitz’s message to other budding Maccabean athletes is to “understand yourself and your body first. No one knows your body how you know it yourself. Feel confident and comfortable before you get a coach to tell you what to do or go onto someone else’s plan.”

Lipschitz’s accolades have been celebrated by Maccabi SA, with whom he has a long association. In the 2019 European Maccabi Games in Budapest, Hungary, Lipschitz won the half marathon – “beating the athlete who came second by thirteen minutes!” says Maccabi SA spokesperson Ros Goldin.

At the 2017 Maccabi Games in Israel, Lipschitz won gold medals for both the 10 000m road race and the 5 000m track race.

“To add to that, the 10km was actually the 10km Jerusalem night race, which was open to the public, with the Maccabi race included as a race-within-a-race. He won the whole event, so both the public and Maccabi races.

“He won against very strong competition. In the 5 000m, he came from third to win it. He was brllliant,” says Goldin.

“He’s a great role model for all sports because he’s very dedicated, he trains hard, and plans well. His races are strategic, and he gives it a lot of thought. He sets an outstanding example for our juniors,” Goldin says.

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Sport

Tokyo has Olympics enthusiast in a pin

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(JTA) Sid Marantz loves tradition so much that he spent 20 years as a board member of his family’s Los Angeles synagogue.

So it’s a big deal that he isn’t in Tokyo this week for the start of the Olympics, the first Summer Games he’s missed since 1984. Marantz usually attends for three weeks: the 16 days of the games – with a few more days tacked onto the beginning and end to trade Olympic pins.

The 76-year-old retired businessman and Jewish philanthropist is one of the world’s most committed pin traders, structuring his life around a subculture immortalised in Boy Meets Curl, a 2010 episode of The Simpsons in which Lisa Simpson becomes obsessed with collecting the year’s commemorative tchotkes.

“I’m in it basically just for the fun,” said Marantz, who is vice-president of the board of directors of Olympin, which bills itself as “the world’s largest Olympic collectors club”.

A Los Angeles native, Marantz became an Olympics enthusiast – with a special interest in Jewish and Israeli athletes – at an early age. He was a teen when his family travelled to Europe for a vacation that ended at the 1960 Rome Olympics. “I just got blown away by the whole thing,” he said. “I loved it.”

The next time Marantz attended an Olympics was in 1976, when he travelled with his family – his wife, parents, and his toddler daughter – to the Montreal Games. It was there, he said, that pin trading first caught his attention.

“We bought a few, and we traded, and they were gone, and we bought more, and we bought more,” he said. “That was my introduction to Olympic pin trading and collecting.”

Olympic pins are the small commemorative lapel pins, made and distributed at each Games, by national Olympic committees, host countries, and sponsors, which are meant to be traded among spectators from different countries. At about $7 (R104) a pop, the tiny, colourful artifacts make ideal souvenirs, meaning that aficionados like Marantz and rank-and-file attendees tend to engage with each other, often in the official pin trading facilities that Coca-Cola has operated at each Olympics since 1988.

Marantz said that he “forgot about” the habit for a time, but the Olympics came back into his life in a big way in 1984, when the Games were held in his home town. His wife, who worked at the time for the United States Olympic Committee, wrote to all of the games’ sponsors asking for pins as a birthday present for her husband.

The resulting haul brought him into contact with the founders of the Olympin club, launched around the 1980 Lake Placid, New York, Winter Olympics. His decades-long involvement has included an appearance in a 2008 documentary called Pindemonium about the pin-trading subculture. Attendees of the 2010 Vancouver Games frequently recognised him because Air Canada showed the movie on flights to the Games.

Marantz said he’s traded pins with everyone from Olympians themselves to heads of state to celebrities. The biggest names among his trading partners include Prince Albert of Monaco, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and gymnast Mary Lou Retton – but he said the vast majority have been locals who have dabbled in the hobby when their home towns have hosted the global sports gathering.

Marantz estimates that he’s spent more than $10 000 (R148 100) amassing a collection of more than 12 000 pins. (That doesn’t include the considerate costs of Olympics attendance.) In one notable acquisition, he told the New York Times last year, he and some pin friends paid $35 000 (R518 350) for 750 000 unsold pins after the 1996 Atlanta games. They each kept 40 000 pins and sold the rest to collectors.

Marantz specialises in collecting pins produced by countries seeking to host the Olympics, pins made by official host committees, and pins made by media organisations covering the games. But he tries to cast a wide net, even engaging in what’s called “churning” by trading for pins he already has.

“The interaction with the people, the chasing of that next pin you want to get. I enjoy the hunt as much as I do having the collection,” he said. “It’s more about the people and the experiences.”

Among Marantz’s favourite pins is one he got in a trade with Gal Fridman, the first Israeli to win an Olympic gold medal (in windsurfing in 2004).

“I love to see Israeli athletes win,” Marantz said. “I got to trade an Israeli team pin with him. It’s in my collection, and it’s meaningful to me.”

This year, Marantz said he’ll be tuning in from home – and looking for ways to collect pins without being on site. Because some of the roughly 200 “hard core of international collectors and traders … who go from Games to Games” work for the Olympics or for individual teams, including as doctors, they’ll be able to purchase pins in person. Marantz expects to be able to trade for them or buy them on eBay.

The next Olympics is the Winter Games in Beijing in early 2022, and Marantz said he’s hoping to go if he’s allowed. But he’s really looking ahead to 2028, when the Games will once again be held in Los Angeles.

Marantz’s Olympics enthusiasm has not gone unnoticed. When the Olympics were held in Atlanta in 1996, Marantz’s daughter had a job with the Olympic Committee, working on the opening and closing ceremonies. Marantz was tapped to serve, during a dress rehearsal, as a stand-in first for President Bill Clinton, and later for Juan Antonio Samaranch, then the International Olympic Committee head.

But even as his profile in the Olympics community has grown, Marantz said one of his favourite Olympic memories took place back in 1984 in Los Angeles, when he donned the suit of the Games’ mascot, Sam the Olympic Eagle.

“Here’s the thing: I wasn’t blessed with athletic ability,” Marantz said of his time in costume. “Certainly not enough to be an Olympian. So if you’re going to be more than just a spectator, you’ve got to jump in with both feet, doing as much as you can to wring out from your experience as much as you can.”

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From booking acts to pitching for Team Israel

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(JTA) Before last November, Shlomo Lipetz already had his dream job.

After drinking coffee and listening to a morning news podcast – The Daily from the New York Times – he would take the L train from his Brooklyn apartment and head to his job as vice-president for programming at City Winery, a music venue and wine bar franchise headquartered on the Hudson River in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood.

There he would dig straight into his emails – an estimated 500 to 700 per day – and get to work on lining up some of the thousands of shows that the City Winery franchise hosts in its more than 10 venues across the country each year. He recently booked, for example, dozens of post-rehab comeback shows for comedian John Mulaney and a cross-country tour for the provocateur pop star Sinead O’Connor (who promptly decided to retire from music after agreeing to the concerts).

But starting in autumn, Lipetz added a new routine to his morning schedule: baseball workouts.

That’s because he is a member of the Israeli baseball team that’s headed to the Tokyo Olympics, which started last week.

The chilled out, baritone-voiced 42-year-old with a mullet happens to also be a 6-foot-4 pitcher who has been known as a pioneer in Israeli baseball since his teenage years in Tel Aviv.

“Anyone who’s in the music business knows just how hardcore the job is. And I think I’m for sure living my dream,” he said on the phone from his office last month. “But I’m probably living other people’s dreams who wish they [weren’t] just stuck in an office. I’m able to do both.”

For people who are both music and sports fans, it does sound surreal – on a normal week, he interacts with music industry stars and insiders, and during international competition season, he plays against some of the best athletes from around the globe.

He’s popular in both worlds, too – Rhett Miller of the country band The Old 97’s and Peter Buck of R.E.M. (who plays in a side supergroup band called The Baseball Project) tell Lipetz that he’s often the topic of conversation in a group text about baseball that they have with other well-known musicians. He also gets free vinyl from many of his musician friends, and in return, he sometimes gives back signed baseballs – they’ve been in high demand.

In Arizona, Team Israel player Ty Kelly – whose locker is normally next to Lipetz’s because their numbers are close to each other – turned to Lipetz (and the team’s few other Israel-born players) for insight into the recent violent Israel-Gaza conflict, which unfolded while the team was at training camp.

Keeping both gigs has meant a little less sleep than usual for Lipetz and some extra coffee. His typical morning from November until May became: coffee at 06:15, an hour drive north of the city to a baseball facility in Pleasantville, a 90-minute workout, a drive back to Brooklyn, a quick stop to change clothes, then a walk to the train. Some nights he would continue his workouts after finishing a day of work at about 20:00.

An intense competitive drive pushes him through it all, he says.

“I just get into my own kind of baseball world, I don’t check my phone. I just like competitiveness,” he said. “I mean, I’ll wake up at six o’clock in the morning, have a crazy, crazy week, and it doesn’t matter – I’ll wake up early, and go play a baseball game, a doubleheader in, you know, 100 degree [37C] weather, just because I love it. It’s just this really purifying experience for me.”

Lipetz isn’t the only multitasker on the team. The Wall Street Journal recently profiled Eric Brodkowitz, a Yale graduate who has been able to keep working remotely as an analyst for Goldman Sachs. Many of the other players are current or former American minor leaguers who have earned Israeli citizenship in order to represent the country and keep their professional careers going. The team’s trainer recently described the squad as “a combination of the Bad News Bears and the Jamaican Bobsledding Team”.

But in spite of the fact that baseball isn’t a popular sport in Israel, the team has a chance of winning a medal in Tokyo. Only six teams are competing in the sport, which hasn’t been played at the Olympics since 2008. And Team Israel has impressed the baseball world in recent years, placing a surprise sixth out of 16 teams in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. They are led currently by former major league All-Star Ian Kinsler and Danny Valencia, a former MLB infielder with 96 career home runs.

These days, the Israel Baseball Association, with funding from the non-profit Jewish National Fund-USA, is deep into an effort to popularise the sport in the Jewish state, starting with building multiple baseball fields. IBA President Peter Kurz, a Mets fan and American expat who has lived in Israel for more than three decades, wants the fields being constructed in the central Israeli city of Beit Shemesh to host winter leagues in the near future, similar to those organised in Latin American countries, Florida, and other warm places where professional players go to hone their skills during the MLB offseason.

Kurz thinks winning a medal in Tokyo would open Israelis’ eyes to the possibilities of baseball. It excites Lipetz, but he has some complicated feelings about his home country, in particular regarding its government and its views on diversity.

“I’m not a nationalist. You know, I think I’m very liberal in my thoughts. I wish we had an Arab Israeli on our team. And I wish we had an Ethiopian Israeli on the team,” he said. “For me, [Israel is] a mixed bag.

“But you’re representing a country that definitely fills me with pride, and you know, it reminds me in a sense of being part of something that’s bigger than you,” he added. “I love the country, and I’m proud to be representing Israel.”

He’s also proud to have the dual life that many dream about.

“I’m in this world where, you know, actors always want to be musicians, musicians want to be athletes, athletes always want to be something else,” he said. “So anyone in the industry, in the music industry that I work with, and especially the musicians, just absolutely love this.”

Then it was back to the emails.

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Olympic news in brief

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(JTA) Is gold-medal swimmer Lydia Jacoby Jewish?

Lydia Jacoby, the 17-year-old swimmer from Seward, Alaska, surprised many when she came from behind to win the 100m breaststroke at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday, 26 July. Even Jacoby herself couldn’t believe it: her jaw dropped when she saw her time of 1 minute, 4 seconds.

Jacoby’s underdog status as the first-ever Olympic swimmer from Alaska, which has just one Olympic-sized pool, meant that Jewish viewers may have wondered for the first time: Is Lydia Jacoby Jewish?

Jacoby, also spelled Jacobi, is a surname of Ashkenazi Jewish or German origin. Ancestry.com lists the name as “Jewish, English, and German,” a variant of Jacobi, and according to a baby names site, “Jacoby is most likely the transferred use of a patronymic Jewish surname derived from the Hebrew personal name Yaakov which was eventually Latinised to Jacob.”

Some of the notable Jacobys in history were Jewish, including one who fled the Nazis in Germany to become an influential Israeli composer, but many others weren’t. The swimming phenom doesn’t appear to be Jewish.

Her parents, Richard and Leslie, are both boat captains and self-described “boat people”. Leslie’s parents, Jerry Hines and Janet Hines (nee Miles), were active in St John United Methodist Church in Anchorage, according to their obituaries. While names cannot prove who is Jewish, public records show that Richard’s father is also named Richard, and he has a brother named Christopher, both unlikely for Jewish men.

Jacoby’s home town of Seward has a population of about 2 773 people. The majority of the state’s Jews live in Anchorage.

Lilia Akhaimova vaults Russia to top spot

Lilia Akhaimova, a Russian Jewish gymnast competing in her first Olympics, had the lowest all-around score on her team during the qualifying round for the finals, in part because of a balance beam fall.

But in the finals itself, she shone on the vault, her specialty, earning the top score among the 24 competitors and helping to propel the Russian Olympic Committee, aka Team Russia, to the gold medal.

Russia’s gold was made possible by a stunning turn of events in the women’s team gymnastics competition – the withdrawal of United States superstar Simone Biles due to unspecified medical issues. Russia scored 169.528, 3.432 points ahead of the Americans, winning the country’s first women gymnastics gold since the 1992 Olympics.

A Vladivostok native, Akhaimova is a two-time World Championships silver medallist and 2018 European champion with the Russian women’s team. She was an alternate at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Akhaimova will compete in the women’s individual vault competition on 1 August.

Kayaker Jessica Fox wins bronze – again

Jessica Fox, considered by many to be the greatest paddler of all time, was heavily favoured to win gold in the Tokyo Olympics women’s slalom K-1 competition.

Instead, the Jewish paddler took home a bronze medal on Tuesday, 27 July, as she did at the 2016 Rio Games.

Ahead of the final, Fox was the top qualifier with the fastest time in the semi-finals. Yet, her final race “didn’t go to plan”, Fox said. “I had to fight all the way down.”

Fox, 27, burst into tears as her mom and coach, Myriam Jerusalmi, also an Olympic medallist in kayaking, comforted her after the race.

Fox told Australian media, “I’m disappointed that I made the mistakes I did that cost me the gold medal, but also happy to be on the podium. It’s our sport. I’d obviously come dreaming of that gold medal, so when I hugged mum, that’s when the floodgates opened.”

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