Having missed out on a place at the Beijing Olympics by one second, Robbie Williams is on a mission to help Macedonia send a delegation to the Maccabiah Games for the first time.
Williams, 29, knows that with 200 Jews in the Balkan state, he will do well to find any home-grown talent to help boost the squad, but he is calling on Macedonians across the globe to get in touch.
The American-born swimmer works as a patents lawyer in London and hopes that his adopted nation can overcome financial problems to make their debut in Israel.
The team would be entirely self-funded, which has already deterred two potential members from Canada and Australia from joining due to the high costs involved in travelling.
Williams said: “I am trying to look into ways to find funding so that if other athletes are interested, we could bring them.”
Although eligible to represent Great Britain, Williams is going to great lengths to form the new delegation and said: “It would bring new focus to a small, but important, Jewish community in a country I consider a second home. We will be an amazing and dynamic addition to the Maccabiah family and it would be great PR for Maccabi to have a new country in the 21st century.”
Williams also spoke of the advantages of fielding a Macedonian delegation. “The Maccabiah experience will not only use sport to bring together the Macedonian community, but help introduce the Macedonian community to the world,” he added.
“I’m good friends with the Chief Rabbi of Macedonia. He is only 27 but very committed to embracing Maccabi and sport.
Williams trains for 20-30 hours a week, including swimming and gym sessions. He holds Macedonian records at 100 and 400 metres freestyle, 100 and 200 metres breaststroke and 100 and 200 metres butterfly.
His best time in the 200 butterfly would have seen him finish 20th in Beijing. His 200 metres national record was broken last month though he hopes to regain it at the Macedonian Swimming Championships in March.
In Israel, he hopes to compete in four races and having watched the last two Maccabiahs, he is confident of coming away with a medal.
He said: “The Maccabiah would be a great stepping stone towards possibly the 2012 Olympics and World Championships. I will represent Macedonia even if I’m the only athlete. It would be the greatest day of my life and is one of the last athletic boxes, along with the Olympics, that I need to tick.”
Upon leaving California, Williams has lived in Canada, Australia, Israel and now England. He said: “I’ve been involved with the Jewish community wherever I’ve been.”
Looking ahead to London 2012, Williams said: “I turn 33 the day after the Olympics. That’s a bit old for a swimmer but not unheard of as some athletes over 30 have won gold. I would be there in a heartbeat if selected.”