Team GB ready for Maccabiah Games lift-off

Joel Nathan, the General Team Manager of the Team Maccabi GB delegation, speaks to Danny Caro ahead of the 20th Maccabiah Games in Israel.


Q: After a highly success EMG 2015, what are you hopes for the Maccabiah Games, both in terms of medals and in general?
A: EMG 2015 was better than all of our expectations, both on and off the sporting front, but the Maccabiah is another level up. For me the first aim is to hope all of our athletes compete to the best of their ability, and whilst beating our medal haul of 24 medals in 2013 is a goal, I will not be a disappointed man if we did not reach that target.

Q:  Putting the finishing touches to squad preparations, what is the mood like in the camp?
A: From speaking to some of the squad members at Kit Day a few weeks ago, everyone is chomping at the bit to get on those planes and get to Israel so that they can take part in what will hopefully be an experience they will never forget. I have been trying to visit as many squad training sessions as possible and I can tell you the preparations the athletes are putting in is second to none.

Q:  How happy are you with the mix of Maccabiah veterans and debutantes?
A: I am very happy with the mix; it was always our goal to get as many new athletes involved as possible and it is going to be great to watch our Lacrosse team take part in the first Maccabiah Lacrosse tournament as well our Gymnastics (artistic and Rhythmic). Of course, there are some veterans taking part like Bernard Davidson who is competing in his ninth Maccabiah for Lawn Bowls and what a great night it will be to see him walk out in the Opening Ceremony with his two granddaughters Ella (Girl’s Netball) and Jazi (Girl’s Football).

Q: What would make a successful Maccabiah 2017 for Team MGB?
A: All of our athletes are representing  the Jewish community of Great Britain and as long as every member of Team MGB has given their all, and had an experience they will never forget, whilst making friends with Jews from all over the world, then for me they have experienced what the Maccabiah is all about.

Q:  What are you looking forward to most about this Maccabiah?
A: Walking out with our delegation of 385 athletes, managers and coaches at Teddy stadium on July 6 will of course be the biggest highlight, but I am also very much looking forward to seeing our athletes winning some medals as we are at the third biggest sporting event in the world. We want to make sure Maccabi Great Britain's name is at the forefront.

Q: Over the years athletes have come together for Maccabiah from across the world to support Israel, who have had issues with conflict with its neighbours. The world has changed, with London, Manchester, Paris, Germany and Belgium having experienced terror attacks. What kind of message can an international sporting event give in terms of Jews pulling together? 
A: All our thoughts are with the families of the victims of these terrible atrocities. However, the Israeli people have shown over the years how they will not let these terrorists win and the Maccabiah Games shows that as you say, Jews from all around the world come to support Israel as it is our spiritual home and we are there to say we will be there forever.

Q:  GB are not sending squads in Rugby, Open/Masters Futsal and one or two other of our most popular events. What are your feelings on this?
A: Unfortunately the costs of the Games are becoming too much for the majority of people and whilst we don’t want the Games to be known as an event for people that can afford it, it is heading that way, especially in the Open age group. It is something I am not happy about as I want as many people as possible to experience the Games, but without the corporate sponsorship other countries get it is only going to get harder. What I will say is that despite the economic hurdles we have had to overcome our delegation of 385 is still a great number to take to the Games. 

Q: We are sending a Junior Lacrosse team for the first time. How excited are you about this and other similar squads in minority sports?
A: Very excited. I know Amy Ansell has put a lot of effort into getting Lacrosse on the Maccabiah map. It is a shame that she won’t be there to see all her efforts come to fruition, due to pregnancy, but in Jessica and Carrie we have a great management team who will make sure our young squad do themselves justice. Regarding the other minority sports, I think it is the first time we are taking a Rhythmic Gymnastics team and we have three great girls looking to take the floor by storm. One of our main aims was to get more girls and women involved with the Games and by sending both a girls and women’s football team for the first time since 2009, we have achieved that.

Q: Former Arsenal and FA physio Gary Lewin is no longer involved after being offered a role at West Ham. Was he heading medical team, and if so who is now?
A: Gary was the main physio for the Open Men’s Football team but was also giving our other physios a lot of advice of how to deal with tournament situations. We have a full medical team with us, led by Dr Mark Benton and physio Debra Silver.

Q:  As well as the athletes, how important a role does your support team (doctors/physios) have in Israel?
A: The support team in Israel is very important; firstly the professional MGB office team will be working around the clock with all the logistical issues we will have to deal with whilst at the Games. As for the doctors and physios, hopefully they will not be run off their feet but they will be prepared for everything as we have made sure all of our squad get the best possible support from start to finish.

Q:  Given we are represented in so many sports in Israel, will you get a chance to see all teams/sports in action?
A: That is the aim but with the Games spread over three main centre of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa it is going to be hard but I will be doing my best to see everyone at least once.

Q:  What can you tell us about pre-camp and what is the message this year?
A: Pre-camp will be based away from Jerusalem and, for the first time, it will be a little bit shorter than we would have liked, due to the way the dates fall. However, we are packing it full with a Jewish identify programme that all the athletes will remember forever, as they will see a new side to Israel we haven’t experienced before.

Q: GB have a reputation for playing fair. Do you have a message for athletes in terms of winning/doing things the right way?
A: On the sporting pitch, court or wherever we are, we are going to come up against countries who will raise their game beyond anything and try and beat us just because we are Team MGB. For me there is no shame in losing as long as they have represented Team MGB to the best of their ability and incorporated that wonderful Maccabiah ethos.

I would like to thank all of the managers and coaches in the way they have gone about preparing their squads, but especially the MGB office for all their support. The logistics for getting a squad of our size to the Games is never ending as new issues arise every day, but we have tried to keep as much as possible away from the athletes so that not to disrupt their preparations. I will be assisted by Brian Green in Israel. I asked him to step in when Richard Horne pulled out due to business commitments and his experience will be second to none. I also want to mention Jessica Overlander-Kaye, Neil Taylor and Nathan Servi who will be managing the juniors at their base in Haifa as their role is vital being loco parentis for 180 junior athletes.

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