Wrestler, two swimmers lead Bay Area medals haul at 19th Maccabiah Games in Israel

Led by wrestler Nathan Engel and swimmer Rachel Knowles, who won two gold medals apiece, and swimmer Leah Goldman, who brought home five medals, Bay Area athletes did well at the 19th Maccabiah Games, held in Israel July 17-30. Of the more than 60 local athletes who competed, more than half came home with at least one medal.

Engel, a St. Helena native and an Army sergeant, won gold in the 121-pound class for both styles of wrestling, Greco-Roman and freestyle. Stationed in Colorado Springs and part of a program for top athletes in the military, Engel was named Wrestler of the Week by USA Wrestling after his victories.

Knowles, of Pleasanton, was a double gold-medal winner in the junior girls 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly. She also took a silver in the 5,000-meter open-water race for 13- to 16-year-old girls.


Nathan Engel on the victory stand after winning a gold medal in wrestling photo-courtesy of ron engel

Goldman, a senior at Burlingame High School, brought home five medals in the open division for women’s swimming: silvers in the 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter butterfly and 100-meter back, and bronzes in the 200-meter individual medley and 100-meter butterfly.


Gary Shemano won a gold medal in grand masters golf, his fourth gold at the Maccabiah Games. The

68-year-old San Francisco resident was competing in his sixth Maccabiah.

Another Maccabiah veteran from San Francisco, Robert Sockolov, teamed up with Sam Sporn of Brooklyn, N.Y., to win a silver in tennis, in the 80-and-over division of men’s doubles. Sockolov, 83, was competing in his fourth Maccabiah Games.

In addition, a number of athletes from the greater Bay Area were on U.S. teams that won gold medals, including men’s rugby in the open division (eight local players), open women’s water polo (three), open men’s ice hockey (three), juniors baseball (two), open men’s water polo (two) and 35-and-over men’s basketball (two).

Two Bay Area basketball players won gold medals in the marquee open division: USC-bound 6-foot-4 Drew Edelman of Sunnyvale with the women’s team, and recent MIT graduate and Jewish Sports Review first-team All-American Will Tashman of Atherton with the men’s squad.

The U.S. junior boys basketball team, led by head coach Barry Kleiman of El Cerrito, lost the gold-medal game to Israel, 71-62. The team of 15- and 16-year-olds included assistant coach David Goldman of Danville and player Carlos Fineman of Lafayette.

Other individual medal winners from the Bay Area included Jacqueline Levere of Los Altos, bronzes in the open 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke; Taly Yukelson of Cupertino, bronze in juniors fencing; Osborne Alexander of Berkeley, bronze in a 50-and-over cycling road race; and Jeremy Babinet of Redwood City, bronze in the juniors 100-meter backstroke.

ISRAEL ATOP MEDALS TABLE: The Maccabiah Games came to a close July 30 with Israel firmly in first place with 411 medals, including 150 gold, 135 silver and 123 bronze. The host country had 3,000 participating athletes.

The United States, which had a delegation of about 1,200, came in second with 196 medals, including 77 gold, 60 silver and 59 bronze. Canada was next with 34 medals, then Australia with 24 and Brazil with 22.

Medals were awarded in four classifications: juniors, open, masters and Paralympics. Athletes from a record 78 countries participated in 42 sports.

In a quadrennial competition known as the “Jewish Olympics” that dates back to 1932, 21 nations participated for the first time, including Cuba, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Curacao and El Salvador.

CLOSING CEREMONIES: The closing ceremony took place July 30 at Teddy Kollek Stadium in Jerusalem and featured some of Israel’s most popular pop music groups, such as Balkan Beat Box and Infected Mushroom.  Speakers urged the athletes to consider making Israel their permanent home.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Omri Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the NBA, presented the Most Outstanding Athlete award to U.S. swimmers Andrea Murez, who won five gold medals and two silvers, and Garrett Weber-Gale, a former Olympian who earned two gold medals.