Competitors touch down for Maccabiah

Athletes have been arriving in Israel in their droves ahead of the 18th Maccabiah Games Chai.

The 500-strong British delegation was one of the first to arrive with some junior competitors flying out on Monday.

The majority of the Open participants landed on Tuesday while the Masters are scheduled to depart on Friday.

There was heartbreak for Team GB Masters futsal player Ollie Olsen. He suffered a fractured collarbone in the squad’s final training session last Sunday.

Olympic gold medallist Jason Lezak touched down on Monday. Speaking at Kfar Maccabiah, the American swimmer said: “I am very excited to be here. It’s a great competition that brings together so many great Jewish athletes from all over the World. I have never been in this kind of event before. I attended similar events in the States, but not in this kind of global event.

“I can’t wait for the games to begin, I had much to look forward too before my arrival to Israel, and now I am having a great time”.

Asked how he will handle the pressure as an elite athlete, he said: ““I always feel that I have pressure on me in any competition, but in this phase in my career, I’ve already learned how to handle it. I’m keeping it out of my head and move on. Since I got here, I’ve had the chance to talk with a couple of kids, and it was wonderful. I know that I’m a role model for them, and for that I will do my very best to set a good example”.

Before the action start, Lezak has been taking in some of the local culture. He said: “I met Mayor Nir Barkat, which was a great experience for me. It’s not an ordinary thing. I had fun with the team. I visited Yad Vashem, and it was very sad and touching.

“I’m going to see the Old City of Jerusalem. This whole experience is the main reason for this visit. It’s not only the swimming, it’s about to be with the team, to see all that I’ve learned about as a kid – it’s 10 times better then what I’ve expected it to be.

“I want to come back here with the kids, and bring my whole family to visit Israel.”

The swimming competition runs from July 19-22 at the Wingate institute, Netanya, where Lezak is staying with the rest of the US swimming team.

Daily Maccabiah updates, results and blogs from July 12.

The JC is the official media sponsor of Team GB.

Last updated: 11:56am, July 8 2009