Fun and Games as GB heroes dig in for gold


There was a steady flow of medals for Team GB in week two of the 18th Maccabiah Games.

Following the success of the track and field team last week, the Masters over 45 football team found enough energy to do the conga after beating Israel to win the gold. This was GB’s first football medal since the 1960s.

Goals from Laurence Swerner and Adam Lee earned a 2-1 win over Israel who had their captain sent off late on for diving.

“We showed great discipline and focus,” said head coach Bobby Fisher. “This was the culmination of 18 months of hard work.”

Speaking about man of the match Gary Grant, he said: “He made five saves on a par with the one Gordon Banks made against Brazil. He was a different class.”

Goal-scorer Laurence Swerner said: “It’s a dream come true. Every part of my body is aching and I don’t want to see another football for a very long time.”

A highlight of the Open team’s route to the final was a 1-0 win over Israel, courtesy of a diving header from captain Sam Sloma. Head coach Les Reed said: “Israel are all professionals but we showed that we can get tough if we need to get tough and challenge when we need to challenge. The boys can also play and a lot of teams are not able to do that.

“We’ve done both in this tournament. The willingness to keep going was phenomenal. We’ve beaten all the seeds to get through, all the toughest teams including the holders.

“It’s been good for us, stepping up a level each time. I’m pleased with the standard overall. It has been a challenge for me but the boys have responded to the coaching.

“I’m happy to say that coaches from the other teams have complimented us on our standard.”

Assistant-manager Ben Winston believes that the turning point came after the 2-1 defeat by France. “It was an education and taught us how to play better,” he said.

GB took bronze in the Masters 35 football. Having lost against Argentina on penalties in the semi-finals, Darryl Lee’s men kept their nerve to beat Mexico on spot-kicks with keeper Danny Jacobs the hero in the shootout.

There was heartbreak for the Ladies Open football team who lost 3-1 to Canada in the bronze medal playoff.

Their top-scorer Chelsea Berlin claimed a consolation with a long-range strike.

Batting frailties led to the demise of Great Britain’s cricketers, according to manager Nigel Rothband as they left the competition with the wooden spoon.

Bronze medallists in 2005, the team knew that victory in their last round-robin match would take them into the gold medal match but they capitulated to finish bottom in the five-team event.

Of the batsmen, only one, Adam Brand, scored a half-century in any of their four matches. A solitary victory over Israel counted for little.

There was major controversy in the match against Australia who accused GB of unsporting behaviour when captain Brett Rosen was run out at the non-striker’s end, thinking the ball was dead. Australia had the last laugh, though, as having set GB 216 to win, they dismissed them for a paltry 93.

Captain Darren Gerard and Ryan Kangisser did well with the ball and while Rothband was happy with his team’s fielding, he lay the blame at the feet of the batsmen.

Speaking after the defeat against India, he said: “I felt that we had the batting to win the game, but they failed us. They let us down again big time. I’m very disappointed.”

There was better news for GB juniors who took silver. They beat South Africa in the group stages in one of the shock results of the competition to set up a gold medal match against the same opponents but were beaten by six wickets after they were dismissed for 111.

GB got off to a disastrous start when opener Scott Gerard was caught at point off the first ball of the day.

They crawled to 53-5 but SA bowled and fielded tightly to end GB’s dream as SA eased home by six wickets with overs to spare. Following the round-robin win over SA, joint-manager Neil Myeroff described it as “one of the biggest thrills of my life”.

He said: “The improvement the squad has made from when they first got together has been amazing. Our bowling and fielding was immense but the batting was not of the standard required.”

Looking back at the competition, he said: “We would have taken silver before the tournament and have done very well indeed. At the end of the day the best team won.

“When push came to shove, South Africa were just too strong and I think three of their batsmen could make it into the GB open team.”

Junior netball coach Sandra Thornton was delighted with silver. GB lost 50-18 to Australia in the final. She said: “I’m very proud as we did better than we expected and grew stronger as the tournament wore on.”

The Men’s Open table tennis team won bronze, the first medal won by the men’s open team for almost 30 years, excluding the intifada.

Victories against the Rest of the World, Greece (3-0) and Austria (3-0) set up a fascinating match against Russia to decide the winners of Group B. Russia won 3-1 but it was a classic.

GB lost narrowly to holders Israel in the semi-finals but in the play-off for bronze, beat Australia 3-2.
Adam Laws won the final rubber following a good win by Keith Lesser.

Squad captain Dov Katz commented: “The men’s table tennis is one of the hardest events to win a medal in. Our squad consists of top 70 England players and this was evident in the performances. Our victory is the culmination of many months of hard work and steely resilience.”

Speaking of the only medal picked up by the GB tennis squad, chairman Greg Rack said: “Stephen Cole and Maurice Kindler played like a pair of young gazelles.”

Impressed by the Israelis, Americans and Australians, he said: “I was disappointed in terms of success but the competition was incredibly strong.

“The Israeli squad featured a player who represented them at Davis Cup level during the 1970s while there were also some full-time coaches involved.”

Emanuel Mond missed out on a medal after losing a bronze medal match.

There was disappointment for the Ten Pin Bowlers who failed to come home with a medal, having impressed at the European Maccabi Games in Rome two years ago.

Junior squash champ Jemma Ockwell won two silver medals. The current GB Under 17 No. 5 reached the final of the main junior event and the final of the team event, where she joined forces with the Israeli girls as she
was the only female GB squash competitor.

Away from the GB delegation, there was no surprise in the swimming competition as American Olympic gold medalist Jason Lezak coasted to gold and broke records.

He helped Team USA set a new Maccabiah record in the 4x100 metre relay. His time of 47:48 in the 100m freestyle was another Maccabiah best.

South Africa retained the Open cricket title after beating surprise package India in a low-scoring final. Man-of-the-tournament Benzion Songavkar recorded his fifth consecutive half century in India’s total of 142. SA were made to sweat as India claimed four wickets in six overs but skipper Adam Bacher (88) and Ryan Cubbes saw them home.

Israel (244-9) won the battle for bronze against Australia (186).

Sabrina Skidalski, one of Israel’s top karate players, announced her retirement from the sport after finishing third. A double bronze medalist at the World Championships, Skidalski, 22, said: “I’m just sick of fighting. I’ll be satisfied if I am able to use my knowledge of karate to save people on the streets who are in trouble.”

The rugby team took the competition by storm. The semi-final win over America was one of GB’s most impressive. Ben Chamberlain crashed over for the only try of the game.

Among the American team was No. 11 Zachary Test, who plays for the national sevens. Jared Braun was another quality customer.

A national Under 20 player, he will play for Berkley College next year, the number one rugby school for college rugby in the USA.

The Americans lost their cool towards the end and one player was lucky to avoid the sin-bin after throwing his head into the face of GB skipper Aaron Liffchak.

After the game, Liffchak said: “I’m so proud I have tears in my eyes. We’ve exorcised some demons from four years ago when we lost to the USA in the semis.

“We have great spirit and have bonded. I’ve never played with such an amazing team in my life.

“Jewish rugby can only go up and if an all-Jewish team was set up, I would love to play for them regularly.”

Off the pitch, several members of the GB squad were barmitzvah at the kotel. Moments before ascending to the Torah to begin the ceremony, assistant-coach Nick Mortimer, 52, said: “When I said that I was going to do it, several others joined me and the rest of the guys came along to support us.”

Rabbi Carlos Tapiero, vice president of the Maccabi World Union, said: “The ceremony adds an extra element to the idea behind holding the Maccabiah.”

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