With the start of this summer’s JCC Games less than two months away, final preparations are getting started for the 57 athletes representing Team Maccabi GB in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The ten-day competition pits together the finest 13 to 16-year-old Jewish athletes from around the world, with GB sending out eight squads across five different sports.
Maccabi GB’s tennis squad is filled with experience and talent and manager Benjamin Sweiry is delighted with the nine players — Libbi Alexenicer, Matan Ben-Yair, Tomer Doctors, Jayden Flatter, Josh Goodman, Zeb Imber, Guy Levison, Rocco Yanover, Daniel Ben-Yair — he’s selected. He said: “The selection process wasn’t easy as we could select only a certain number of athletes to compete, but I’m confident in the players we have.
“We’ve been training twice a month since the start of 2023 with sessions consisting of a mix of cardio and fitness exercises, drills, shot-specific exercises and some match play.
The sessions have not only given our athletes a chance to improve on certain areas of their game, but to also get to know each other and improve squad cohesion, which will prove so important once we’re out in America.”
Those assembled compete at local clubs around north-west London, including David Lloyd in Bushey and the Radlett Lawn Tennis Club, with the majority having already competed in local or regional tournaments.
They’ve also played on the international stage. Sweiry added: “Three of them competed in Maccabi GB’s Junior squad at last year’s Maccabiah Games in Israel, we’re so lucky to be in a position whereby our tennis squad is made up of extremely strong competitors.”
As to what they can expect in the summer, he said: “Having represented Team Maccabi GB in the 2015 JCC games, I know how high the standard will be. Israel and certain parts of the US are notoriously tough competitors. Having said that, I know that our squad will compete and challenge their opponents — whoever they’re put up against.
“I don’t want to put any pressure on my squad but in all honesty, most of them have made clear their aspirations of coming back with a medal and I’m all for it! If we can, I’d be absolutely delighted!
“As long as they can come back saying they played at the best level they can and enjoy the experience of challenging themselves against international opponents, that in my eyes will be a successful tournament.”
Table tennis manager Alex Pereira with his team (Photo: Alex Gould)
Representing their country on a global level is definitely something that excites them. “There’s a real buzz in the camp at the moment,” he said. “I’ve noticed such a huge difference between our training sessions in January when the squad was first getting to know each other and our most recent session.
“Bonds are forming between our squad members that will be so important when it comes to supporting each other during the tournament.”
As to what he hopes his players will gain from the Games away from the competitive side, he added: “For most of my squad, there is so much more to the JCC Games. I’m hoping there will be an opportunity for my squad to connect with young Jewish teens from all over the world — something they’d probably not have the opportunity to do otherwise.
“The connections that are made at the JCC Games can last years and I want my players to make the most of every opportunity that is offered to them.”
Maccabi GB will also have three table tennis players in their squad — Raphael Zakaim, Tamara Felix and Charlie Loble. Their manager Alex Pereira said of them: “All play regularly to a high level and are great additions to the squad.”
Proud of the squad he has assembled, Pereira added: “From the first meeting, they all bonded very quickly and have really developed as a squad.”
Expecting a high level of competition at the Games, he said: “My main aim is that the squad play to the best of their ability and have the best possible experience on and off the tables.
Winning medals would be great and it’s something that they’re all more than capable of doing, if they play to the level that I know they can, I’m sure they won’t come back empty handed.”
Saying how proud they are to be representing Maccabi GB, he added: “There are so many things that the players can gain from this trip, not just being with Team Maccabi GB, but also the other international athletes.
“We want all of the players to look back on this experience having gained some fantastic memories that they will have and can share for life.”