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TeamMaccabi SA puts pedal to the metal in Budapest

  • LukeSportJosh Luck and Aaron Marks win gold in the Mens Open Doubles
As the largest-ever European Maccabi Games (EMG) wound to an end in Budapest this week, so #TeamMaccabiSA and their leaders reflected on an experience to be cherished.
by LUKE ALFRED | Aug 08, 2019

There were outstanding performances aplenty, a high number of “close-but-no-cigars”, and a good few heartbreakers in the five disciplines – half-marathon, tennis, table-tennis, swimming, and futsal – not least of which was the under-16 futsal team’s penalty shootout loss to Great Britain in the final late on Tuesday morning.

Among a couple of stand-out performances was Adam Lipschitz’s winning the EMG half-marathon (in a time of 1:07:48) as well as the overall Budapest Night Race of which the half-marathon was part, with his compatriot, Greg Cohen, taking bronze in the half-marathon. “It was a fantastic race, lovely to run along the Danube at night,” said Lipschitz. “I was well-rested, and had a chance to acclimatise. It was quite a tactical race, and my tactics paid off.”

Lucky by name and lucky by nature, doubles partners Josh Luck and Aaron Marks were also winners of gold late in the games when they beat the Great Britain pair 6-4, 6-1 in the Men’s Open Doubles finals on Tuesday morning.

Luck wasn’t quite as fortunate in the Men’s Open Singles finals, losing 6-2, 6-2, to take silver.

A 23-year-old former Capetonian now studying in Israel, Luck didn’t feel he was at his best in the singles, but was proud of his juniors in his role as manager of the junior team in Hungary. “I’m really proud of what they’ve achieved,” said Luck. “They’re a passionate bunch of young players, and I’m looking forward to see what they can do on the courts in the future.”

Playing in a younger category, tennis player Lynn Gottschalk, also won silver. Her medal came in the 55+ Ladies’ Masters, where she lost in the final to Argentina’s Patricia Mendibe. “I’m thrilled to have won silver, having played in a category down,” said Gottschalk. “It’s been wonderful to be in the beautiful city of Budapest. The atmosphere at EMG 2019 has been fabulous, and the people have been great.”

It was a busy week for Gottschalk because she and her partner, Anthula Markovitz, also won silver in the Ladies Doubles Masters final, going down to a Spain/United States pair 6-2, 6-2. This was some achievement for the pair in general, but Markovitz in particular. Born in 1947, she is the oldest member of #TeamMaccabiSA, a good few years older than their youngest team member, 12 year-old tennis player Gia Fine. “We’re delighted to have won another medal together,” the pair of Markovitz and Gottschalk enthused.

Also over on the clay courts at the Park Tennis Club, former South African Alan Rechtman (71) won gold in the Men’s 65+ Singles and bronze in the Doubles. Rechtman participated for Great Britain (he emigrated to the UK in 1986) but is originally a Capetonian, growing up in Camps Bay and learning his tennis at a variety of clubs on the Atlantic seaboard. “It’s great to come to the EMG and meet South African participants and supporters,” he said. “It gives me a big buzz to remember my old days. My history is with South Africa, and because of your accent, you are always reminded where you’re from.”

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for the under-16 futsal boys and their coach, Byron Cottle. They opened the tournament with 8-4 and 7-4 wins over Scotland and Turkey respectively. After that, they hit a mid-tournament wobble, losing consecutive games by a single goal to both Great Britain and the hosts.

Needing to win their final match against Spain (which they duly did 4-1) they also needed to hope Scotland beat Hungary (which they duly did) to ensure a place in the finals against Great Britain. This was a careful, crabby affair, with the scores level at 1-1 after full-time, and level by the same margin after two five-minute halves of extra-time. Eventually the South Africans lost the penalty shoot-out 5-3. The team were gutted but, in spite of their disappointment, it’s possible to view their Hungarian adventure in another way. As Cottle says, “Last April, we started off with a bunch of outdoor soccer players. Now we’re a futsal team.”

While Maccabi events are about healthy competition, they also embody an ethos of cultural camaraderie and religious getting-together. Budapest won the right to host this year’s EMG four years ago, beating off the claims of Swiss city Basel. The event is the largest multisport event ever hosted in the Hungarian city. This means 2 300 accredited participants drawn from more than 41 countries (including nine non-European nations) across 63 competitions. The catering burden alone is astronomical, with 78 000 kosher meals all told, and 27 000 guest nights in hotels operated by Hungary’s two major chains.

The oldest participant? A sprightly American bridge player born in 1933. The youngest? A young Lithuanian chess prodigy born in 2009.

  • A comprehensive wrap of #TeamMaccabiSA’s currently unverified 49 medals (15 golds) in the swimming pool will appear in next week’s edition of the SA Jewish Report. All the results were not available at the time of going to press.

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