Memorial Day Weekend Training for
2017 Maccabiah USA Karate Team
By: Tzvi Hoshiyama
The USA Karate Team competing in the upcoming World Maccabiah Games, is truly a national squad. The athletes coming from Florida, California, Indiana, Illinois, Washington State, New York State and our own Five Towns, came together on Memorial Day for a weekend of grueling training in preparations for the Games, to be held in Haifa, Israel in July.
Karate, while only debuting in the 2020 Olympic Games for the first time, has been a staple sport in the Maccabiah Games for over 40 years, ever since its introduction by Dr. Alex Sternberg in 1977.
The Memorial Day session was filled with several training sessions wrapped around a little relaxation. Training consisted of 6 hours per day on Friday, Sunday and Monday mornings. On Shabbat, of course, no training was conducted. The co-chairmen of the karate committee, Dr. Alex Sternberg and Sensei Caren Lesser and coaches, sensei’s Avi Azoulay and David Munden, enthusiastically greeted the athletes upon arrival.
The team was selected in November 2016 in a competition, and the athletes chosen have been preparing with extra workouts since. Our local team members are all products of yeshivas and adding additional training into their already crammed schedules was a challenge.
The Memorial Day training camp was a final opportunity for the coaches to prepare the squad for the rigorous competition that lies ahead.
The Maccabiah is held once every four years and has seen numerous Olympic champions emerge from its ranks. Mark Spitz, Mitch Gaylord, Ally Raisman, Lenny Krayzelburg to name just a few. In other words, this is a serious international sport event held for the world’s best Jewish athletes.
Volunteering their time and expertise training the team, were two world renown US Champions, Sensei Billy Finegan (11X US National Champion, University Games Champion) and Sensei Dov Sternberg (12x US National Champion, 7 times Gold medalist Maccabiah Games and Pan-Am Games Silver medalist). The very spirited Maccabeans enthusiastically received the guest instructors, as they trained with them. The team consists of boys and girls born between 2002 and 1999 and the “open’ squad of those 18 and over. They will be competing in Kata(Forms) and the Kumite(fighting) categories. Some of the members have won regional and national championships on their way to earning a berth on the team, while others have won in more recent events.
Following the Sunday workout, the team was treated to a special reception at the home of Alex and Ilyse Sternberg, where they met previous Maccabiah Karate Team members. The highlight of the reception however, was the visit by Congresswoman Kathleen Rice (D, Fourth CD) to cheer the team on. Congresswoman Rice recently won a 5k race in Washington, earning for herself the title “The Fastest Woman in Congress”.
Kathleen took turns meeting the athletes and speaking with them about their years of training, their motivation and sharing with them her attitude toward fitness and competitiveness. She wished them all good luck.
Both the athletes and parents enthusiastically received the Congresswoman’s visit to the Sternberg home.
Monday morning was the final workout and the athletes and coaches departed for home exhausted but with a renewed sense of purpose on their quest for the GOLD.