Los Altos swimmer strikes gold at Maccabiah Games in Israel

tel aviv  |  Jacqueline Levere of Los Altos now has something in common with U.S. Olympic champion Jason Lezak: Both won gold medals in swimming at the 18th Maccabiah Games this week in Israel.

Levere, who’ll be a junior this fall at St. Francis High School in Mountain View, took home the gold in the junior girls 200-meter breaststroke at the Wingate Institute, Israel’s national center for physical education and sports, near Netanya.

Meanwhile, in making his Maccabiah Games debut, Lezak collected two gold medals through the first three days of the swimming competition. He won the men’s 100-meter freestyle on July 19 and led the U.S. 4×100 freestyle relay team to victory on July 21. His time of 47.78 seconds in the 100 free set a new Maccabiah record.

Lezak, from Irvine, is a seven-time Olympic medalist who eschewed this week’s World Championships in Rome to participate in the Maccabiah Games, a quadrennial event that took place in Israel from July 13 to 23.

The so-called Jewish Olympics, launched in 1932, is the world’s third largest international athletic competition, with more than 8,000 Jewish athletes from 60 countries competing this year.

Jason Lezak competes in the 100-meter freestyle July 19 in Israel. photo/ap/ariel schalit

Three of the United States’ 82 medals (25 gold, 26 silver and 31 bronze) through the first full week of competition were won by athletes from the Bay Area. In addition to Levere’s gold, Ilana Gordon of San Carlos brought home a silver in the junior gymnastics competition, capturing the vault event.

Laura Lauder of Atherton captured a bronze in women’s cycling, in the 30- to 49-year-old division time trial.

In men’s basketball, the United States won the open division gold medal with a 95-86 overtime triumph over Israel on July 22. Former Stanford star Dan Grunfeld led the way by scoring a game-high 25 points, the same total he had in the U.S. team’s previous game, a 97-89 win over Argentina. Todd Golden, a former star at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, scored 22 points in that game.

The win gave the U.S. Maccabiah men’s basketball squad, coached by University of Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl, just its third gold medal in the last 24 years, as teams from France, Israel and Russia have risen to prominence. In its six contests during the competition, Team USA outscored its opponents by an average of 35.8 points per game and went 5-1, including a 73-71 loss to Russia.

The Americans’ victory was considered by some to be an upset, since Israel dominated all of its previous opponents and won 110-53 over Argentina in the semifinals. The U.S. squad beat Argentina by only eight points.

In baseball, the U.S. team went 8-0 and captured the gold medal July 21 with a 12-6 win over Canada. The U.S. squad, which also won gold in the inaugural baseball competition in 2005, steamrolled its opponents by a combined 152-20 score and now has a 13-1 record in Maccabiah play.

One big story this week was a massive brawl between the Argentina and Russia under-18 boys soccer teams, resulting in both teams’ expulsion from the rest of this year’s soccer competition as well as the 2013 Maccabiah Games. The fight reportedly involved players and coaches from both sides.

In one of the Games’ heartwarming moments, Australian golfer Roy Vandersluis, 62, made Maccabiah history by competing in his ninth consecutive games, and after never winning more than he a silver medal, he was part of an Australian masters’ golf team that claimed the gold.

The Jerusalem Post and the Associated Press contributed to this report.