Over winter break, five students traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil to compete in the 2011 Pan American Maccabi Games. The event unites elite Jewish athletes from around the world in assorted sports competitions, and Milken Community High School was well represented as several athletes were selected to participate. Casey Fullman ’12 and Sydney Gebroe ’13 attended for volleyball, Adam Treisman ’13 and JJ Friedman ’12 for basketball and Elon Zlotnik ’12 swam in the Games.
Gebroe joined the USA team, which consisted of around 10 other players from states including California, Florida, Maryland and Arizona. The team met up in Tampa prior to the Games to practice for a few days before competing together. They won silver, finishing behind the host nations’ powerful Brazil team.
Fullman, a star volleyball player at Milken, was selected as a member of the men’s US volleyball team. The team practiced at Princeton for the first time right before the games and was still able to beat out Brazil for the gold. While Fullman is accustomed to being an outside setter for his club team, he stepped up as an outside hitter and started all five games. Fullman plans to keep in touch with his teammates and hopes to reunite with them in 2012 for the summer games in Israel.
Treisman and Friedman both attended as members of the US basketball team. The US team was able to win gold by beating every other team by at least 15 points, an impressive feat considering the high level of competition and skill in the league.
“You’d be surprised how many Jews can dunk,” Tresiman remarked.
Finally, Zlotnik swam the 50 and 100-meter freestyle, 50 and 100-meter backstroke and the 200-meter freestyle relay for the USA team, competing among national and Olympic time-holding swimmers. While he was unable to take home any metals, Zlotnik achieved some personal best times in his events.
One of the most memorable events was in the International relay.
“It was the last event of the day, and I had already taken my racing suit off. A Brazilian man came up to me, translator with him, and asked me if I would participate in an International Relay with him and others,” Zlotnik said. “I did not have time to put back on my racing suit, so I was only able to put on my USA speedo with an American eagle on the reverse. It was humorous for me to get up on the blocks, alongside me swimmers donning suits from Brazil, Uruguay and Peru.”
Beyond the athletics, the five Milken students enjoyed touring around the city and befriending Jewish athletes, whether from their own teams or from around the world.
“I highly recommend Maccabi to anybody that is able [to attend]. It is truly an invaluable experience. The bonds and friendships that were made in my 10 days in Brazil will last a lifetime,” Zlotnik said.