By David Saffer

The final countdown has begun to the 20th Maccabiah Games in Israel. Around 10,000 athletes from 80 countries will compete in 47 sports from July 4 to 18. Team Maccabi GB has a 400 strong delegation heading out to the Games and many will have aspirations to win a gold medal.
Team Maccabi GB is competing in almost half of the 47 sports at the 20th Maccabiah Games next month.
A delegation of 400 competitors is amongst 10,000 athletes from 80 countries taking part at the sporting fiesta in Israel from July 4 to 18.
Teams from around the globe will participate at a number of cities including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Acre and Netanya.
The opening ceremony takes place at Teddy Stadium, Jerusalem, on Thursday, July 2.
Team GB competes across a range of sports including cricket and lacrosse for the very first time.
Father and son duo Philip and Elliott Mayer head up the Junior cricket squad with all players competing for the first time.
And the family continues as Oliver Nathanson competes for the ‘Juniors’ whilst dad, Hilton Nathanson, takes part in the Open cricket tournament.
“We have selected a squad full of experience with several players already achieving district or county honours for their age groups,” said Philip.
“We are confident in giving it our all and challenging for a medal position.”
Elliott added, “As every player will be experiencing the Games for the first time, we are aiming to give each player the best possible journey.
“We are excited to show them the unique sporting, social and cultural elements the Games offer where life long memories and friendships are made.”
Junior cricket squad: Joshua Avigdor, Sam Clarfield, Jack Davis, Alexander Fachler, Joel Freedman, Aron Gale, Matthew Gittleson, Daniel Glicher, Dylan Heller, Samuel Margo, Gregory Mayer, Toby Michaels, Oliver Nathanson.
Amy Ansell represented Team GB in medal winning sides netball in 2005 and 2009.
The sporting super mum is now the inspiration behind the Junior lacrosse squad.
Following her success at the ‘05 Maccabiah, Amy met with the then European Maccabi chairman, Stuart Lustigman, to initiate getting a GB lacrosse team to the Maccabiah.
Twelve years on a squad is now ready to take on the rest of the world as the first GB lacrosse team at the Games.
Amy won’t be joining the group in Israel as she has recently had her third child but is backing the team all the way to be competitive.
“These juniors are super excited to be a part of something so special,” she said.
“The number of Jewish girls playing lacrosse has increased since 2011, they are a young squad but we make up for that in enthusiasm.”
Amy added, “Many of the team has competed at the JCC Maccabi Games but they’ll soon learn that Maccabiah is on a whole different level.”
Regarding the management team, she commented, “Carrie Goldstein, has a plethora of experience as an American lacrosse player and coach and is helping the team realise their potential.
“Our manager, Jessica Tray, is a Maccabi GB legend who is currently studying at Cambridge University. Jessica is super organised and helping to keep us all in check.”
Junior lacrosse squad: Jessica Bloom, Chloe Cresswell, Isabella Davis, Daisy Gershon, Lara Hugh, Jenna Jacobs, Georgia Koopman, Natasha Leek, Kezia Levy, Charlotte Morley, Taryn Onnie, Yves Schreiber, Tami Schwarzmann, Libbi Wise.
Daniel Reuben and Andrew Myers head up the GB Masters Over 45 football team.
The squad, coached by ex-professional footballers Steve Grenfelll and Tibor Kukan, is made up of a number of footballers that have yet to compete at a Maccabiah Games.
These Games will also be special as some of the player’s children compete in Junior squads.
“We have a great bunch of boys with immense ability and are confident every player can and will play a major part of our success in Israel,” noted Daniel.
“We look forward to having a great time on and off the pitch.
“Participating at a Maccabiah is a fantastic experience on many different levels.”
He added, “As joint managers we endeavoured to create a professional and enjoyable environment for the squad throughout the build up and our time in Israel.
“We have been part of special experiences at a number of Maccabiah Games and understand what it takes to have a successful and memorable time.”
Masters Over 45 squad: Michael Abraham, Gideon Barnett, Laurence Beck, Paul Buxton, Richard Buxton, Daniel Gordon, Peter Lazard, Bradley Lazarus, Bradley Lee, Kevin Lotzof, Max Radford, Jonathan Rayner, Danny Schweiger, James Temple, Mark Wagman.
Simon Zamet, Ricky Lawrence and Adam Fegan oversee the Maccabi GB U18 boys football team.
The experienced trio will be looking to equal the teams’ gold medal performance at the European Maccabi Games two years ago.
Simon, who is team manager, believes the squad includes a mix of players starting to gel on and off the pitch.
“We’ve managed to keep a lot of the boys who won in Berlin together as well unearthing some gems from elsewhere,” he said.
Ricky, assistant manager, added, “We are going out there to win.
“Adam and I have tasted gold in a Maccabiah or European Games before and Simon badly wants to upgrade on his silver medal that he picked up in Berlin.
“The excitement is building and the boys cannot wait to get out there. It’s going to be an incredible experience for all of us.”
Adam, who is coaching the squad, noted, “We have hammered home the point what an incredible two weeks they are going to have in Israel.
“We know we have to prepare the squad correctly to make it the best possible Games in every aspect, both on and off the pitch.”
GB U18 football squad: Shaun Levine, Daniel Lewis-Green, Harry Margolis, Nathan Anders, Kieran Beech, Benjamin Case, Jamie Cohen, Daniel Creese, Jordan Green, Jayden Huglin, Callum Lee, Joe Leslie, Jack Mattey, Michael Perkins, Reuben Rabstein, Alexander Randall, Joshua Shack, Tyler Smith.
Murray Ayrton heads up both the swimming and athletics teams.
The largest swimming squad to date has been selected from some of the top clubs in the country including Camden Swiss, Broomfield Park, LB Redbridge and Staines.
“We have selected an exceptionally strong team with all our swimmers having competed at either regional or national level,” he explained.
“In Ellie Grant and Ewan Taylor (Scottish national 50 meters freestyle age-group champion) we have genuine medal potential.”
Squad member Josh Foreman said, “I love the fact that I’m representing my country and going to meet Jewish athletes from all around the world. I can’t wait for this once in a lifetime experience.”
For many of the athletes, the Games are extra special as family members played a big role in their Maccabiah journey.
“My grandfather managed the Maccabi GB 1997 golf team at the Maccabiah Games so to follow in his footsteps representing GB in swimming will be both an honour and hugely emotional especially as Israel is so close to my family’s heart,” said Alicia Slater.
Team manager Naomi Ayrton won a bronze medal four years ago and now leads the team in Israel.
“It is a huge honour for me to return to the pool,” she noted.
“I made so many wonderful friends and had such a great experience, I can’t wait to help this team have an unbelievable time as I had.”
Samantha Russo assists Naomi in Israel.
“My Maccabiah dream was born after returning from an incredible European Maccabi Games in 2015,” she said. “As a coach all you want and can hope for in a squad is that their competitive drive is laced with sportsmanship of honour for their country and their culture.
“I know they will do themselves and their integrity proud, and hopefully smash a few personal best records.”
Swimming squad: Jacob Boyden, Joshua Foreman, Ellie Grant, Nathalie Lustig, Jason Pears, Zack Rothman, Rebecca Saville, Alicia Slater, Ewan Taylor.
Team GB’s eleven-strong track and field team has genuine medal opportunities across 24 separate track events.
Eden Davis is the current English Schools 100m bronze medalist whilst Lucie Wolfenden finished eighth at the English National age group championship.
“We have assembled an exceptional team with a great mix of experience and youth,” commented Murray Ayrton.
Former Maccabi GB track star Ellie Edwards, who won gold four years ago, manages the team. “I am very excited for these young athletes to take part in the experiences I had on and off the track.”
Lucie Wolfenden is the youngest member of the team.
“I am really excited to have the opportunity to compete in the Maccabiah Games and am also looking forward to creating lots of memories with the rest of the team,” she said.
Allana Edwards will participate at the Games with both her sisters.
“This is really special and a unique opportunity,” she commented. “I’m also excited to be able to compete alongside people who share the same passion for athletics as myself.”
Tal Pelmont represented Maccabi GB at the JCC Maccabi Games in 2014.
“That experience gave me the impetus to compete further and was the start of my running journey,” he said. “This is an exciting new stage for us all by competing at the third biggest sporting event in the world.”
GB’s track and field team: Joel Alexander, Rachel Ayrton, Eden Davis, Allana Edwards, Idan Gal-Shohet, William Levy, Ben Oehley, Tal Pelmont, David Stone, Lucie Wolfenden.