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Sport

“It’s the experience of a lifetime,” says tennis champion

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When Jacqui Boyd got the call to be one of Team Maccabi South Africa’s flag bearers at the Maccabi Games in July, her lifelong dream came true.

“It’s amazing,” she says. “I think it’s any athlete’s lifetime dream to be a flag bearer for your country at such a special event.”

Accomplished distance runner Adam Lipschitz, a two-time Maccabiah gold medallist, will be South Africa’s other flag bearer at the games. Whereas he will be running in the 5 000m, 10km, and marathon at the showpiece, Boyd is hoping to defend her singles and doubles tennis titles in what will be her fifth Maccabiah.

“I’ve been a proud Maccabean my whole life,” says Boyd. “I’m super excited and can’t wait. I’ve been to four previous Maccabiahs, and it’s the most amazing experience. Every time you walk into the stadium, there’s a feeling that you can’t explain to anyone unless you’ve been there. I’ve played in Junior Fed Cups and World Senior Tennis Championships – it just doesn’t compare to a Maccabiah, the marching in, looking around, and seeing Jews from all over the world. There’s just something special about it.”

Boyd first represented South Africa in tennis at the age of 14, and has since represented the country at all levels. As for the Maccabiah, she has bagged five gold and two bronze medals since making her debut as South Africa’s youngest competitor at the 1993 edition.

“It’s been different every time,” she says. “As a 14-year-old in my first Maccabiah, I experienced it very differently to a 43-year-old. I still remember my first one vividly. I missed two afterwards because I was playing tennis overseas. When I returned at 25 as an open player, the experience of the Maccabiah was very different to 10 years prior. All of a sudden, four years ago, I was in the master’s category at 35, even though I feel quite young. But each time, it’s more special. I’ve got a lot of friends and family who will all be competing for different countries in different sports.”

Tennis is the only sport South Africa has participated in at every Maccabiah since 1935. The country has brought home 118 tennis medals, the most it has achieved in any sport at the games.

Leading up to this year’s Maccabiah, Boyd has been practising tennis about four times a week. “I also enjoy running, going to the gym and cycling, so I keep fit and active,” she says.

Boyd took a liking to tennis as a seven-year-old. “My brother started going for tennis lessons and my parents kind of took me along,” she recalls. “I started playing, getting better, enjoying it more, and playing some tournaments. I started winning Western Province tournaments and then national tournaments. As I got older, I started winning more, and just loving the sport.”

Playing tennis has allowed her to travel the world and meet amazing people. “It’s a sport you can play until you’re 80 plus,” says Boyd. “When I moved overseas, you could join a tennis club and automatically meet like-minded people in an outdoor, friendly environment under the beautiful sunshine.”

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