The 20th Maccabiah Games will take place in Israel from July 4 to 18. Ottawa athletes who will be part of the Canadian delegation held a kick-off event, February 2, at NeXT restaurant in Stittsville.
Surrounded by friends and family, every one of our Ottawa athletes felt like a gold medalist as CTV’s Lianne Laing introduced them one by one to loud applause.
Laing also shared her own Maccabiah story. She competed in gymnastics at the 1989 and 1993 Games and talked about the pride she felt walking into the stadium and singing “Hatikvah” with the other Jewish athletes from around the world representing their countries in Israel.
The guest speaker was Tessa Bonhomme of the 2010 Olympic gold medal-winning Canadian women’s hockey team. Rather than the usual keynote address, Bonhomme and Laing held a conversation and discussed representing Canada, life after sports and visiting Israel.
Bonhomme described being in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics in 2010. As the host country, Team Canada was the last country to enter the opening ceremonies. When the doors opened, the cheers were so loud that Tessa felt a wave that blew her hair back.
In 2014, Bonhomme visited Israel to teach at the Canada-Israel Hockey School in Metulla. She recalled visiting the Western Wall, Ein Gedi, the Dead Sea, and many other places – and the impression that Masada made on her.
Bonhomme said it was already too hot at 9 am to climb up Masada, so some of the hockey players walked down after the tour. She said it was so hot their sweat evaporated before it could stain their jerseys.
A highlight of the evening was Alexa Shabinsky and Hayley Bennett’s personal stories about why they chose to become Maccabiah athletes. They cited the thrill of competing internationally and their upcoming first visit to Israel. Shabinsky is a Grade 12 student at Ashbury College who competes in track and field, while Bennett is a mother of three who plays softball.
This is what Maccabi Canada is all about: showcasing how sport and Israel can help build community and Jewish pride.
Proceeds raised at the event support the Ottawa area athletes competing at the 20th Maccabiah Games. Visit www.maccabicanada.com for more information about Maccabi Canada and the 20th Maccabiah Games.