PHOENIX, Arizona, January 17. GARRETT Weber-Gale, two-time Beijing Olympic gold medalist, is set to represent the USA Swim Team at the 19th Maccabiah Games, held July 17-30. The games are held in Israel for athletes of Jewish descent, giving participants an opportunity to experience Israeli and Jewish culture while racing against other Jewish athletes.
"The first week we do live touring of Israel; that's the cultural aspect you get from going to the Games," Weber-Gale told Swimming World. "Then there's the competition for swimming, which I think five days, followed by other sporting events."
Weber-Gale will race the 50 and 100 freestyles, with a potential spot on the 400 medley and 400 freestyle relays, in the open swimming event category (ages 18-35). Fellow Texas Longhorn alumni, Eric Friedland, the 2011 200 breaststroke NCAA Champion, will also be competing in the Games.
Weber-Gale looks forward to competing alongside a fellow Longhorn, saying, "It'll be pretty cool to potentially be on a relay with another Texas guy."
The Maccabiah Games have a long history of attracting elite Jewish swimmers to the competition. The 1965 Maccabiah Games were reportedly Mark Spitz's first international competition, at age 15. Spitz also competed in the 1969 Games, and lit the torch at the opening ceremonies of the 1985 Games. Jason Lezak sat out the 2009 World Championships in Rome to compete in the 18th edition of the Maccabiah Games. Weber-Gale told Swimming World that he will be competing in the World Championship Trials (June 25-29 in Indianapolis, IN) prior to the Maccabiah Games, but will decline a spot on the US World Championship team in Barcelona, Spain (July 28-Aug. 4), should he qualify.
"I can't wait to go to Israel," Weber-Gale explained. "I've wanted to do this for a long time, and I always knew that this year I would do it. Just going to Israel and competing amongst other Jewish athletes is going to be a thrill and a once in a lifetime opportunity."
"I am very excited to have Garrett on our team. He will be a real inspiration as he is one of the most respected swimmers in the U.S.," Rick Ehrlich, USA Chairman for Open Swimming at the Games said. "Having a two-time Olympic gold medalist on the team and hanging out with our swimmers will be an invaluable experience for all the athletes. Garrett will be an integral part of our team's success."
"I want to participate in the Maccabiah Games because I want to help continue to prove to the world that Jewish athletes can compete at the top levels of their sport," Weber-Gale explained. "I plan on swimming fast in Israel. I am extremely proud of being a Jew and hope that this experience brings me closer to my Jewish heritage and culture."
About the Maccabiah organization:
Maccabi USA (MUSA) is a federally-recognized not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization with an extensive history of enriching Jewish lives through athletic, cultural and educational programs. The organization is the official sponsor of the United States Team to the World Maccabiah Games, the Pan American Maccabi Games and the Maccabi competitions in Europe and Australia, as well as a sponsor of the JCC Maccabi Games for teens in North America. As the official Maccabi representative in the U.S., Maccabi USA supports Jewish athletic endeavors, enhanced by cultural and educational activities in the United States, Israel and throughout the Diaspora.
MUSA develops, promotes and supports international, national and regional athletic-based activities and facilities. It strives to provide Jewish athletes the world over the opportunity to share their heritage and customs in competitive athletic settings. MUSA supports programs that embody the Maccabi ideals of Jewish Continuity, Zionism and Excellence in Sport. Maccabi USA Builds Jewish Pride Through Sports.