Maccabi GB have selected their table tennis squad ahead of next year’s European Maccabi Games in Vienna.
Spearheaded by team manager Dov Katz, co-chair of the Maccabi GB international table tennis committee, the delegation features the cream of English Jewish table tennis talent with an array of highly-ranked England stars included.
The men's team includes three-time consecutive national Maccabi GB men's champion Ashley Stokes (21), currently rated at number 55 on the national men's list and singles quarter-finalist at the Maccabiah 2009, and Eli Baraty, 28, ranked 77. Baraty has represented MGB at two previous EMG’s and is a previous Maccabiah medalist.
Ranked 186, Raphael Marom, 19, and Keith Lesser, 29, rated 158 and 2009 Maccabiah men's team bronze medalist, winner and runner-up respectively of the recent trials for the Games, make up a very powerful four-man squad with England rated 159 Matt Spero selected as a non-travelling reserve.
The junior boys squad comprises six players and includes England international star and junior England No. 4, Zak Zilesnick who will be looking to add a singles gold medal to his impressive national medal haul.
Jack Josephs, winner of the Yoram and Sylvia Katz award for the most promising young sportsman at this year's national championships, also features.
The masters squad includes Maccabiah 2009 bronze medalists Adam Black and Ian Mablin and is strengthened by the addition of England veteran number 50 Ivan Lewis from Leeds and champion at this year's MGB championships.
The women's squad is made up of multi-Maccabiah medal winner Sally Prowen and South African born Dana Samowitz, winner and runner-up respectively at this year's championships.
Katz, 36, himself rated number 84 on the men's national ranking list, has represented Maccabi GB at various International events over the past 25 years. Speaking about the selections, he said: “Table tennis is one of the few sports that Jewish players truly excel at on the national stage and we are privileged to boast a squad which includes top 100 England men's ranked players and a twice national cadet champion.
“With the likes of Ashley and Eli in the men's team, supported by the strength of Rafi and Keith, we have every chance of winning a high medal next summer.
“In the junior team, Zak is firm favourite to win a singles gold in Vienna and he will be very well supported in the team event by up and coming stars which include Jack Josephs, Volvy Herskovic, Zac Mandel, James Sherwood and Ben Raine.
“The women's team has a real blend to it with the experience of Sally and the youth of Dana who are likely to trouble our European counterparts.
“The squad has been selected as early as possible to ensure that the cream of Jewish talent from this country are as well prepared as possible to compete with the rest of Europe next July. We will be the envy of every European nation but the hard work now begins. Our nine-month training programme will start in earnest in early October and we should expect blood, sweat and tears as we commit ourselves to strive for as many medals as possible next July.
"Clearly we have selected a terrific squad in terms of ability but also suitability as I am confident that each person will act throughout in the spirit of the Games wearing the Maccabi badge at all times with pride. Making Jewish friends from all over Europe will be the defining legacy of this squad.
Joining Katz on the committee are co-chair Lee Vandermolen, junior team manager Stephen Gooblar, a former European Maccabi Games medalist, and head coach Jade Blasse, once St Lucian international and England youth development coach who took on the roles of Junior table tennis manager and coach at the 2009 Maccabiah Games.
Katz said: “Having been involved with Maccabi GB table tennis for over 29 years this squad is up there with the best of them. From a personal perspective, I have made myself available as an emergency travelling reserve in the Men's Squad should I be required in that circumstance, however I have an important job to do and that is to lead the squad to international success.”