An Athlete’s Journey – Elyssa Rosenbaum

Why did you choose to compete as a member of Maccabi USA?

My dream of competing as a member of Maccabi USA came true this past summer at the 14th Pan American Maccabi Games. While my original talent was as a gymnast, my most recent talent is as a triathlete. As I was surfing the web, I stumbled upon a Maccabi USA Facebook ad seeking Jewish triathletes. The post seemed too good to be true, so I had to find out more. After solidifying that Maccabi USA was in fact fielding a triathlon team, I applied, was appointed to the team, and about 6 months later was boarding a flight to Mexico City to compete as a member of Team Maccabi USA!

What was it like meeting your teammates for the first time?

I met my first teammate, Raz, at the airport in Newark. Although there was a big age difference, I could tell we were going to be really good friends. That intuition continued when I got to Mexico City and met the rest of my teammates, members of both the Open and Masters teams. While triathlon isn’t a team sport, I felt part of a team with my fellow triathletes supporting me, and me them.

Was this your first time competing internationally? What was the experience like?

While I have competed in other international competitions, I always felt like an outsider looking in. The Pan Am Maccabi Games were the first time that I was an insider – a representative of one’s country with the USA emblazoned across my uniform. My first race, the Cycling time trial left me feeling both incredibly excited and incredibly anxious. Once my feet hit the pedals, I was off – the anxiety subsided, and the excitement set in. 25.1 miles an hour around a curvy track, no hills, no potholes, just a smooth road ahead of me and two gold medals waiting for me at the end of the race – one for overall champion and one for the fastest female in my age group.

A few days later I boarded another bus, en route to the triathlon competition at Las Escatas – an eco-park in Morelos, Mexico. The air outside was hot, the pressure was on, and my nerves were coming in at full speed having not had the opportunity to scope out the track before competition started. Cold water always solves that issue. Once I put my face in the freezing cold water, my nerves disappeared, and I could see all the way to the bottom of the river. I was ready to tackle the race head on and that’s exactly what happened. I ended up in 2nd place in my age group (30-34). It was one of the hardest races I have ever done, and finishing it felt like a huge accomplishment.

What was your highlight?

Getting to compete and represent your country is special, it’s something that not many people get to do. Competing on an elite level with other Jewish athletes is something I want people to take more advantage of. We live in such a small world, the more connections you make and experiences you have, the better. Put aside your fears of ‘I’m not good enough to compete’ or ‘I couldn’t do that’ and just go for it. You never know what the competition may bring and the kinds of people you may meet.