An 80-year-old Houstonian is competing for USA’s tennis team in Israel’s Maccabiah Games

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Padel and tennis have loads in frequent. Each sports activities use the identical kind of ball and require the identical strokes. Scoring is similar.The primary distinction is a padel court docket is smaller and enclosed. And the racket is stable, versus its stringed tennis racket counterpart.

“They’re like sister sports activities,” Jack Levin mentioned.

However if you happen to’ve by no means heard of it, Levin mentioned he wouldn’t be shocked. “It’s exploding everywhere in the world, besides right here within the U. S.”

And don’t get it confused with pickleball, which is gaining recognition on this nation. Padel is extra cardio, Levin defined. It’s like tennis meets squash.

“For those who’re a tennis participant, you possibly can acclimate to padel inside 10 minutes,” he mentioned.

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Levin, who’s 80, loves each sports activities – and performs every twice per week. He has a devoted crew of associates for matches.

Levin’s ardour for padel landed him a spot within the twenty first Maccabiah Video games — the third largest sporting occasion on the earth, behind the Olympics and the World Cup. He’s taking part in on the tennis group, however was instrumental in beginning a padel competitors, which can debut this 12 months in Israel.

Levin left Houston on July 10. Opening ceremonies have been held in Jerusalem on July 14.

This might be Levin’s first time to affix within the festivities.

“I’ve recognized about all of it my life,” he mentioned. “It’s like a mini Olympics. It’s enormous.”

Besides on this competitors, all the athletes are Jewish. “That’s a prerequisite,” Levin mentioned.

The Maccabiah Video games date to 1932 in Israel. And even additional again, the primary “Maccabi membership,” shaped in 1895 in Constantinople.

It was the primary Jewish sports activities membership on the earth, created as a response to antisemitism. When a gaggle of Jewish gymnasts have been banned from becoming a member of the native sports activities membership, they determined to create their very own. The membership was so successful that it was adopted by Jewish sports activities golf equipment throughout Europe.

Maccabi USA was established in 1948, initially as the USA Committee Sports activities for Israel (USCSFI), first shaped to advertise health for Jewish youth, whereas additionally “strengthening Jewish delight, connection, and group.”

The namesake is Judah Maccabee, who can be the driving drive within the Hanukkah story. Judah’s birthplace Modi’in is the beginning location of the torch for the opening ceremony.

The Maccabiah Video games are held each 4 years in Israel. There may be additionally the Pan American Maccabi Video games, held each 4 years and sponsored by the Latin American Maccabi Confederation.

The current video games have been set for 2021, however COVID-19 brought about a 12 months’s delay.

On-line, Maccabi USA lists 1,200 group members going to Israel to compete in opposition to athletes from all over the world. Ages vary from teenagers to 80-somethings. In whole, the Maccabiah Video games, contains 10,000 athletes from 60 nations, competing in 47 sports activities from July 12 to July 26.

“It’s the whole lot,” he mentioned. “But it surely’s extra than simply taking part in sports activities. It’s about celebrating custom and constructing lifelong friendships. It strengthens Jewish ties worldwide.”

Occasions are scheduled round Israel, and athletes are inspired to discover the nation when not competing. Levin, who has traveled to Israel beforehand, plans to take a couple of excursions.

For him, being a part of the Maccabiah Video games is sort of a dream.

“It’s been on my bucket listing,” he mentioned.

Levin began taking part in tennis rising up in South Africa. When he moved to Houston 46 years in the past, he introduced his racket alongside for the experience.

“I’ve been taking part in now for 50 years,” Levin mentioned. “It’s only a nice sport, and it’s a lifelong sport.”

He joined the tennis program at Chancellors Household Heart, close to Braeswood. He additionally turned a part of the previous Houston Metropolis Membership, which was opened in 1979 by tennis professional Greg Vinbladh, who served for 40 years because the membership’s director of tennis.

Levin was an everyday from the get-go.

“I don’t bear in mind the membership with out him,” Vinbladh recalled. “He’s a really gifted participant.”

Levin received championships on the Houston Metropolis Membership – however admitted he was by no means one for tournaments.

“It takes an excessive amount of time,” he mentioned. “And I used to be working full-time. I received as a lot enjoyment out of taking part in with associates.”

Levin presently performs tennis at Life Time Galleria and padel on the Houstonian.

He stays a CPA and associate within the agency Snell, Levin & Co. Throughout lockdown, whereas working from dwelling, he discovered he had some further time on his arms, which he used to pursue a query on his thoughts: Why isn’t there a padel group within the Maccabiah Video games?

He emailed the Maccabi USA workplace and related with program director Shane Carr.

That’s when Levin realized padel could be debuting on the Pan American video games because of its rising recognition in Latin America. However as for the Maccabiah Video games in Israel, it was a no go.

“They mentioned no, that it wasn’t going to occur,” Levin mentioned.

Nonetheless, he was related with members of the padel fee for the Pan American video games.
“They have been all excited to have me within the group, and so they mentioned maintain making an attempt,” Levin recalled.

He went to work – and in October 2021, Carr referred to as. “I’ve received excellent news and dangerous information,” he informed Levin.

The excellent news was that padel was added to the 2022 video games, the dangerous information, that it could be solely open division.

“That places me out of it,” mentioned Levin, who didn’t wish to compete with youthful athletes. Nonetheless, he was happy with the accomplishment.

“I had stirred the pot and received this going,” he mentioned. “Then, I labored to place the group collectively.”

And Levin additionally caught the competitors’s buzz. In November, he traveled to Florida to check out for the tennis competitors, which makes use of age brackets, and received. In January, he realized he’d made the reduce.

“I’m fairly impressed,” Vinbladh mentioned. “It’s actually an enormous deal, and I believe he’ll do fairly nicely. He’s in nice form.”

His spouse Leorah Levin and three sons Doron, Ilan and Daniel Levin inspired him to go for the gold.

“My children mentioned, ‘Dad, do it. You’ve all the time wished to do it,’” Levin recalled.

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He signed on. As a CPA, February by April are his busiest instances. So he waited till April 16 to begin coaching with coach Niclas Kroon, a suggestion from Vinbladh. Levin needed to be taught to play on a clay court docket. He labored with Kroon on the Forest Membership, which has the suitable floor.

By July, he was able to go to Israel.

“I’m wanting ahead to it,” he mentioned a day earlier than his flight. “Probably the most emotional expertise of the video games is the opening ceremony. They are saying you bear in mind it for the remainder of your life. There’s plenty of pleasure.”

He defined that Jewish athletes from all all over the world will stand collectively. There might be shabbat celebrations – and time to attach with one another in Israel.

“I take delight in being Jewish,” he mentioned.

Since shifting to Houston, Levin has been a member of Beth Yeshurun – “from the day I arrived,” he mentioned.

“He’s good,” Vinbladh mentioned. “He’s a fantastic consultant for his metropolis, for his faith, for the whole lot. He’s only a nice man.”

Lindsya Peyton is a Houston-based freelance author.

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