Olympic gold medalist Jason Lezak says that he will be fulfilling a lifelong dream when he competes at the 18th Maccabiah Games Chai in July.
The seven-time American Olympic medalist has prioritised going to Israel ahead of competing in his fifth visit to the world championships as he represents Team USA at his debut Jewish Olympics.
"I now have the opportunity to go to the Maccabiah Games in Israel, fulfilling a lifelong dream of mine,” he said.
“This is a decision I made which is as much about giving back to the Jewish community and exploring my heritage as it is about the performance on the world stage.
"I'll be representing my country and my heritage as a Jewish athlete and I'm very proud of that."
Best-known for his barnstorming finish in the freestyle relay at last year’s Bejing Olympics, Lezak posted the fastest-ever split to beat France's Alain Bernard to secure another gold medal for Michael Phelps on his way to breaking the record set by Mark Spitz. Lezak was the captain of the US swimming team in Beijing.
Team US head of delegation Ron Carner said: "Jason swimming accomplishments embody exactly what the Maccabiah Games are all about. Jason is a great Olympian, his passion for this cause is something, we as an organisation want him to promote. We are honored to team up with him."
Having come through the Maccabi ranks as a junior, competing at the JCC North American Games, Lezak, 33, adds to a distinguished list of American Olympians to compete at the Maccabiah, including Krayzelburg and the great Spitz.