Medal for Maureen at Pan American Maccabi Games

  • 1-Milner Jack
The Pan American Maccabi Games, says 41-year-old Santiago lawyer Alvaro Rosenblut and chairman of the organising committee, will be the biggest Jewish-Zionist event outside Israe
by JACK MILNER | Feb 03, 2016

Just this past summer, the European Maccabi Games, held in Berlin, drew about 2 100 Jewish athletes from 36 countries. Rosenblut proved to be spot on as more than 3000 athletes marched into the stadium for the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, which ran from December 28 until January 4.

First in line in the Parade of Nations was the Israeli team, which comprised about 140 members, followed by teams from more than 20 countries, including large delegations from Argentina, Brazil and Mexico and smaller contingents from Cuba and Venezuela.

The US sent around 500 athletes and as host, Chile, with 600 participants, were the last into the stadium.

The Pan American Maccabi Games have become a happy hunting ground for South Africans and although there was not a full team this year, Maccabi SA was represented 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.

However, they managed to get late entry into the singles draw. Arona reached the quarterfinals and narrowly missed out on progressing to the semis where she would have met Maureen. However, Maureen did make it through and in a tough encounter against an Argentinian player, she managed to win bronze. This takes Team Maccabi SA’s tally to 11 tennis medals at the Games.

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

Arona explained that the conditions were very tough. “It was very, very hot but we persevered. They play on clay courts and I was a bit nervous having had a hip replacement operation, but I gave my best. I wish all the ladies from our 2013 Maccabi Games team could have joined us. We would have cleaned up!”

Maureen agreed. “The heat was incredible. The standard was good and I had a very tough first round singles match that lasted three-and-a-half hours and then the semifinal took another two-and-a-half 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.”

The South Africans were given the nickname “the Golden Girls” by their competitors, as they were the oldest competitors in the competition. Maureen is in her 60s and Arona in her 70s. “It was lovely,” said Arona. “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.”

This was the two women’s first visit to South America and they found it a “very different and exciting adventure”. Chile is a very beautiful country, especially all the snow-capped mountains in the distance,” commented Arona.

“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.”

Maureen added: “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.”

Maureen says she has been playing tennis since the age of 12 and the sport has played an important role in her life. “I love playing tennis. Sport in general makes an important contribution to your quality of life, and tennis has kept me healthy and happy - and outdoors.

“But also socially it has been wonderful. I have had such good times. As you can tell, I love to socialise and tennis provides the opportunity to meet all kinds of new people.

“Before the Pan Am Games I had just returned from visiting my daughter in Boca Raton, Florida. I regularly play tennis with her at her club which is geared towards older citizens who receive free coaching twice a week. Tennis is a very sociable, very big part of their lives there.”

She and Arona have known each “since we were babies, “so it was wonderful to share this with her.

“I also met so many women from all over the world, and we shared stories and it was very special. We were also invited to lots of social events and it was a good opportunity to promote South Africa.”



  1. 2 aronakatz 06 Feb
    A great memory
  2. 1 ninki maslansky mallet 06 Feb
    congratulations to these wonderful women who are truly "golden girls."  they are an inspiration.  i loved this report which is full of positive and fun information.  thank you maureen and arona for representing all us oldies who love tennis, international sports, and the unity amongst nations that these games provide.  ninki - 77


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