Haley Miller, who has just completed Grade 8 at the Ottawa Jewish Community School and is a top-rated rhythmic gymnast – she’s currently rated ninth in Canada – says she’s looking forward to representing Canada at the 20th Maccabiah Games, the Jewish Olympics, taking place from July 4 to 18 in Israel.
Miller hopes to bring medals home from Israel and also has her sights set on the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. She trains 25 hours per week after school and on weekends.
The Maccabiah Games take place every four years in Israel and with more than 10,000 athletes expected from about 80 countries, it is one of the largest sporting events in the world.
“Through sports, we can reconnect Jewish athletes to Judaism and to Israel,” said Tali Dubrovsky, national executive director of Maccabi Canada, the national association which fields the Canadian team.
Part of the Maccabiah experience is the opportunity to tour Israel – a first-time Israel experience for many of the athletes.
Miller is looking forward to seeing Israel, a country she has studied extensively as an OJCS student.
“I’m excited to see all the places I’ve heard of and learned about,” said Miller. “I feel I know so much about Israel, before even going there.”
Miller was her class valedictorian in Hebrew and said she “can read Hebrew without nikkud (vowel symbols), but it’s hard, sometimes.”
Asked about her favourite aspect of gymnastics, Miller pointed to the confidence it builds.
“It’s a life lesson,” she said. “Even when I’m done with gymnastics, I will always know that nothing comes easy, but that [the hard work] pays off at the end.”
Noting that her gymnastics training takes up so much of her time, Miller added she would not be doing it if she didn’t like it so much.
“At the end of the day or on the podium, all the sacrifices are insignificant. I won’t remember the birthday parties I missed… Gymnastics makes me appreciate much more the time with friends, and I’m thankful for my good and understanding friends.”
Other Ottawa athletes on the Canadian Maccabiah team include Hayley Bennett (women’s softball), Kenneth Kaczkowski (wrestling), Jamie Bender Kerbel (junior baseball), Jesse Levine (tennis), Daniel Osterer (softball), Jake Osterer (softball), Rob Osterer (softball), Stephen Osterer (softball), Coby Pearce (junior tennis), Alexa Shabinsky (track) and Lauren Shaffer (swimming).
They will be accompanied by Ottawan Bill Iszo, a Maccabi Canada board member.
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