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Jewish sporting achievers pull their weight in 2023

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Johannesburg civil engineer Gregg Bernstein went into the 2023 Commonwealth Weightlifting Championships in India earlier this year with a lot of pressure on himself and a point to prove. “I wanted to show that I could perform under the spotlight,” he says.

His international debut turned out to be a massive success. He came seventh in the senior men’s 89kg category, achieving a personal record in the snatch by lifting 123kg. His clean and jerk of 150kg nearly beat his personal best.

Bernstein says travelling to India was “super exciting, having not travelled to a lot of places in my life. Meeting many of the other athletes, some of whom I have watched compete at some of the highest levels of the sport, was also an amazing and humbling experience. More importantly, this experience has motivated me to train even harder. I want to see more of the world and there’s no better way to do that than through weightlifting.”

Bernstein’s fellow King David Linksfield alumni, lawyer Gabrielle Berkowitz, also lifted the bar high this year. Berkowitz won the women’s 87kg category at the Gauteng Weightlifting Championships and the South African Weightlifting Championships.

Having won gold at the South African National Weightlifting Championships last year, Berkowitz says the secrets behind her continuous success include “pushing through the days I don’t want to be there, and having a good group of training partners to help me through the long training sessions”.

Footballer Erin Herz, who appears to be the first Jewish woman to play for Banyana Banyana, signed her first professional contract when she put pen to paper with TS Galaxy this year. The Mpumalanga-based club competes in the Hollywoodbets Super League, the top division of women’s soccer in South Africa.

“TS Galaxy started a new team to join the national league, and they scouted players from a few clubs,” she says. “I was one of the players they selected and asked to be a part of this new project.” The club is currently third on the 16-team log.

Tennis star Jacqui Boyd, the number-one ranked player in the 40+ women’s division in South Africa, has her sights set on next year’s World Masters Tennis Championships in Tokyo. “The first step towards that was two weeks ago, when I won the Western Province Masters Tennis Championships in Cape Town,” she says. “With this win, I remain undefeated in all the Masters Tennis Tournaments that I have played in South Africa over the past 11 years.”

One of the keys to this impressive run is Boyd’s understanding of her strengths and weaknesses, having played tennis for more than three decades. “In the latter years of my career, I’ve focused on my strengths both mentally and physically. One of my biggest strengths has always been my mental toughness and ability to compete under pressure.”

Colin Nathan became the first trainer in South African boxing history to be nominated as Trainer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

He also brought South African Boxing the only three credible world title fights in South Africa thanks to his working relationships with major power brokers and promoters globally. He says these fights, which included a world title eliminator and the first credible world title contest in East London, were well received.

Nineteen-year-old Dean Levy, the 395th ranked senior table tennis player in the world, played in the World Table Tennis Championship Finals in Durban. The top 128 players in the world competed in it. He also came second in the Under-19 South African nationals.

Wealth manager Gavin Mofsowitz placed third in his category of males aged 40 to 44 at the Ironman Hamburg European Championship in June. It took him less than nine hours to complete the 3.9km swim, 180.2km bicycle ride, and 42.2km marathon at the championship.

Dr Vic Boston, 63, completed his 45th consecutive Comrades Marathon, meaning he’s still on track eventually to surpass Barry Holland, 71, who completed his 49th consecutive Comrades this year.

Toni Hesp, the owner of Toni Hesp Physiotherapy in Johannesburg, completed her 31st Comrades, and now needs four more to become the female with the most Comrades medals.

Rising cricket star David Teeger won the Absa Jewish Achievers’ inaugural Rising Star Award after shining as the captain of the Proteas Under-19 team against Bangladesh in his first international cricket tour while being head boy of King Edward VII School in his matric year.

Israel had an unforgettable year in soccer. Israel took the bronze medal at this year’s Under-20 World Cup and reached the semi-finals of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship. The holy land had previously appeared in only two championships out of a possible 16, never making it out of the group stages.

English Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur signed Israeli Manor Solomon in July after he impressed for Fulham in the 2022/2023 season.

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