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Maccabi GB champions oozing the X-factor

As the sporting year draws to a close, Danny Caro speaks to the individuals who have made a difference to Maccabi Great Britain on and off the pitch.

    The 20th Maccabiah Games took pride of place on the Jewish sports calender but there were a number of outstanding performances across the board in 2017.

    It has certainly been a year to remember for Juliette Wise, winner of the Susan Halter Elite Athlete prize.

    A 21-year-old lacrosse player at Cambridge University, where she is in her final year reading Education and Classics, Wise expressed “surprise” upon hearing about her accolade.

    “I’m absolutely gobsmacked,” she said. “I didn’t even know I’d been nominated.”

    Since first representing Maccabi GB at the 2011 JCC Games, Wise, from Borehamwood, has made excellent progress and is now a regular for the senior England B team.

    Playing as a straight attacker, she started the year in style by scoring a hat-trick in the Varsity match against Oxford.

    “At the moment, I’m focusing on enjoying my lacrosse,” she said. “I love learning from the more experienced players in the England performance squad and am keen to see how far I can go.

    “I hope to be selected for the England under-23 performance squad next year and my ultimate aim is to reach the senior A team.”

    Wise, who coaches the Maccabi GB lacrosse teams, has represented England and Israel at under-19 level. She was also co-captain of the MGB junior netball team that won gold at the 2013 Maccabiah Games.

    She said: “Hopefully, I can use this award as a springboard to get more girls involved in sport.”

    Ellie Edwards from Manchester received the UJIA Maccabiah Games Open Athlete prize. Edwards took on the role of MGB Athletics team manager in the run-up to the Maccabiah and combined this perfectly with competing as an athlete, bringing home three individual medals from Israel.

    Edwards, 21, led by example with a stunning victory in the Women’s Open 200m final in Jerusalem. She smashed her personal best and the 25-second barrier for the first time, crossing the line in 24:85 and taking 0.58 seconds off her previous best.

    The Birmingham University student also gained silver in the 100m, registering a best time of 12:17. She also collected a composite bronze in the 4x400m relay, joining a team of three Australians.

    Edwards described the experience as “really rewarding yet challenging, juggling the roles as an athlete and a manager”.

    She is believed to be the first ever GB athlete to win gold in the same event as a senior that she did as a junior four years earlier.

    Edwards said: “It’s an honour to receive the Open athlete of the year award for the Jewish Olympics, especially after receiving a similar award at the Euros four years ago as a junior.

    “Israel 2017 was one of the most amazing experiences of my life — as good as the first time.

    “I was also one of the youngest managers in the team and was often mistaken as a junior athlete.”

    Asked about her combined role, she admitted: “It was a tough ask if I’m honest as I was focused so much on managing the amazing and successful squad I had.

    “At times, I almost forgot I was competing and perhaps didn’t train as hard as I should have.

    “So to win this award as well as earning three medals and smashing two personal bests along the way is a great way to round off my Maccabiah experience.

    “I had a great squad and amazing managers to help me along the way,  as well as my great family who supported me the whole way.

    “Winning this award shows me how proud MGB, the athletes and other managers are of my achievements. It has also boosted my confidence and shown me that I can balance multiple jobs at once. Let’s see what happens in 2021.”

    Joseph Salt won the UJIA Maccabiah Games Junior Athlete of the Year. He was commended for “achieving success through dedication to tennis”.

    Salt represented MGB at both the Maccabiah and JCC. As the youngest member of the Maccabiah squad, he was described as “quite the character” by his manager, “always making the team laugh and starting off the chants on the way to matches,” despite having the earliest of starts of all the MGB squads”.

    He had a tough draw in Israel, competing against internationally ranked players, sometimes three years older than him, and in the blistering heat.

    Cheered on by his grandparents, Salt partnered Josh Hennes and the pair battled valiantly to take two games off seeded Israeli opponents in the doubles event.

    “Playing in front of such a vociferous crowd shouting my name” was the highlight for Salter who went on to win gold at the JCC and was commended for his “hard work, perseverance and technical ability”.

    Emma Garber admits her “feet have not touched the ground” since she was named UJIA Maccabiah Games Masters Athlete. She finished the 20th Maccabiah Games as the most successful competitor in the GB squad.

    Personal trainer Garber brought home four medals from Israel, including two golds. Garber, from Lavenham in Suffolk, won bronze in the Jerusalem Half Marathon 50-59 age group. Despite experiencing stomach problems, which later resulted in her being sent to Hadassah Hospital and put on a drip, she crossed the line in two hours.

    She went on to take bronze in the Triathlon despite temperatures of 42 degrees and managed to recover in time to win the Open Water Swim two days later, describing it as her “strongest event”. The mother-of-two finished the competition on a high by winning the Maccabi Woman title.

    Garber said: “When I heard about the award I’d been skipping for an hour and my feet haven’t touched the ground since.

    “My first Maccabiah could not have gone any better. All my hard work and dedication paid off. The experience was exhausting but everything I could have hoped for and more. God willing I will do it all over again in four years.”

    Commenting on her award, Garber went on to say: “Frankly I’m gobsmacked. I’m very honoured. It’s the icing on the cake to a memorable year.

    “I want to thank my friends and family for all their incredible support.

    “I now have a different determination and real belief in myself and my ability.”

    Roger Bruck, 78, continued to defy both age and gravity and it was fitting he received the Richard Urban Lifetime Achievement award.

    A competitive athlete for 70 years, Bruck won his first European Maccabi Games gold medal in the 4x100m relay in 1959. He retained the gold at the next EMG four years later and added individual gold in the 100m and silver in the 200m.

    Bruck’s first triumph at the Maccabiah Games came in 1961 when he won gold and served as Track and Field manager at the 1993 and 1997 Maccabiahs.

    He claimed 13 successive sprint titles representing Shaftesbury Harriers from 1959 and has also competed for Middlesex, Hertfordshire and the Southern Counties and held club records for the Harriers in both the 100 yards and 100 metres.

    Having taken up the high jump, long jump and pentathlon as a Masters competitor, he has dominated the jump events in his age category in recent years in the UK. He has been the British high jump champion and topped the UK rankings for the past three years, while consistently maintaining strong rankings in the long jump and his original events. He has won multiple medals in all four disciplines at the highest national levels.

    Bruck brought his season to a satisfying conclusion by successfully defending his 100m, 200m, high jump and long jump titles at the Southern Counties Veterans championships in Kingston. He retained his top position in the UK V75 annual high jump rankings and stands second in the long jump. He also has top ten places for both sprint events.

    His greatest success in recent years has been achieved in the high jump, an event he only took up his mid-fifties. Pride of place among his many gold medals is his performance in last year’s British Masters Championships, in which he achieved an extraordinary clearance of 1.27m. This added 4cm to his own M75 Southern Counties record and would have tied for gold in the World Masters Championships.

    “I’m delighted with the award and very excited,” enthused Bruck. “I’ve had a great year of track and field and it’s quite amazing that I’m still improving in the jump events – something I never attempted a youngster.”

    Asked what athletics has given him, Bruck replied: “Great friendships and a love of Israel,” which he first visited for the 1961 Maccabiah and describes as his “favourite moment”.

    Bruck, who lives in New Barnet and has four grandchildren, said: “I still have sleepless nights before a competition and love pushing myself.

    “I’d like to add my appreciation to my wife, Judy, who has loyally supported my meshugas for 53 years.”

    Jimmy Barnett collected the John Dymant JCC Maccabi Games award as a valued member of the MGB under-16 team who caught the eye in Miami in August.

    Barnett was commended for showing “compassion and determination throughout the Games” in which the U16s lost in the final.

    Jeremy Banks receives the Fred Worms Outstanding Volunteer award as recognition for many years of service organising Maccabi table tennis at Kalanu.

    Banks has been involved with MGB for 48 years and he fondly recalled how his “parents met as youngster at a Maccabi youth club in Manchester”.

    “I’m totally surprised,” remarked Banks, 54, upon hearing about his award. “I don’t do it for the adulation but it’s very nice to be recognised. I volunteer because I enjoy it.

    “Maccabi is my life in many ways. It’s been a massive part of my life. I started in Glasgow, it’s in my blood.”

    Banks organises tournaments and also supports MGB with attendance at international events for both Great Britain and Scotland. He is also a talented player for MGB in the Wembley and Harrow League. “I’m playing more than ever now and hold a national ranking of 32 in the over-42 Masters, playing in the British League,” he said.

    Banks won two silver medals playing together with Martin Shapira at last summer’s Maccabiah and said: “It’s my dream to win gold one day.

    “Table tennis is an incredibly popular sport in our community. I love running the Maccabi Kulanu club in Kenton and help to support the kids through coaching and getting equipment.

    “It’s great to see numbers increase, and progress is definitely being made. The sport is going through a real purple patch and we now have six teams competing in Wembley and Harrow League.”

    Ruby Kalms was commended for her “character and spirit” following an injury which ended her participation in the early stages of the Girls Football competition at the Maccabiah. Winner of the Ken Gradon Rachmanus award, she continued to “support and assist the team during the competition”.

    Phone and Learn won the Sam Bulka Maccabi GB Community Fun Run award after raising more than £48,000 for the MGB Fun Run over the past two years.

    Established in 2015, PaL provides free flexible learning opportunities for individuals keen to learn about any Jewish topic via mobile phones and the internet, matching up students with a dedicated one-to-one tutor, using Skype and Facetime. The concept has resulted in more than 250 learning partnerships on a weekly basis.

    Programme co-ordinator Rivka Graham said: “The Fun Run is always such a great opportunity for our organisation to meet people from across the community and to welcome many new learning partnerships.

    “It’s a great honour to win the award and is down to hard work of our trustees, Dov Harris and Danny Binstock for fund-raising and participating in the 10k run.”

    Beit Shvidler captured the JC’s School Sports award. The Edgware school registered its first sporting success in girls’ netball last year and they have also finished as runners-up in two football competitions.

    Assistant headteacher Mr Segal, who is also head of PE, commented: “We’re thrilled to be recognised as winners of this prize. I know the children will be really proud of the achievement.

    “They thoroughly enjoy participating in the tournaments and demonstrating good sportsmanship, shaking hands whether they win, lose or draw.

    “The school always tries to prioritise high-quality PE for fitness, social skills and teamwork as it gives the children an opportunity to develop their passion at the end of it.”

    Reflecting on the achievements of the winners, MGB chairman David Pinnick said: “2017 has been an exceptional year for Maccabi GB and for Jewish sport. Including the Maccabiah in Israel and the 11th MGB Community Fun Run, we have reached more people this year than ever before.

    “The Sports Awards are a culmination of the Jewish sporting achievements of the year and we are delighted to recognise the talent, commitment and achievements of athletes during this past year.

    “We wish mazeltov to all the winners and we would also like to congratulate those who were nominated and thank the judging panel who had a difficult task in selecting the winners.”



    Juliette Wise (Lacrosse)


    Ellie Edwards (Athletics)


    Emma Garber (Multiple sports)


    Joseph Salt (Tennis)


    Jeremy Banks (Table Tennis)


    Roger Bruck (Athletics)


    Jimmy Barnett (Junior Football)


    Ruby Kalms (Girls Football)


    Phone and Learn


    Beit Svidler


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