Photo: Jewish Agency
Tal Brody
Photo: Jewish Agency
Mark Spitz

Maccabiah's best athletes

From swimming, to tennis, to basketball, to track and to gym, past Maccabiah Games have offered exposure and competition for some of the world's top athletes, including numerous Olympic medal winners and internationally known professional athletes

The Maccabiah has managed to host some of the world's best Jewish athletes over the 73 years of its establishment. Here are some of the best of the best, as compiled by Maccabi World Union.  


Mark Spitz (Swimming)


Mark Spitz was born in February 1950, in Modesto California. At the age of two his family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii. His father taught him to swim before he knew how to walk. In 1965 he starred in the Maccabiah with four golden medals. In the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City he “only” won two personal medals (silver in 100 meters butterfly and bronze in 100 meters freestyle) and two gold medals for swimming relay.


In the Munich Olympics in 1972, Spitz dazzled the sports world with seven gold medals and seven world records. Spitz won 100 and 200 meters freestyle and butterfly in competitions. He led the American foursome swimming relay to victory in a 4X100 meters and 4X200 freestyle, and also 4X100 medley, an achievement no other athlete has managed to break.


Brad Gilbert (Tennis)


Today, he is considered one of the greatest tennis coaches in the world. His private academy is extremely prosperous and he is the man behind Andre Agassi’s success.


Gilbert was born in 1961; his professional career ran from 1982-1995. During this period, he won 20 tournaments and got to 20 finals. In his prime in 1990 he was classified as fourth in the world.


During 1989-1990 he managed to finish as one of the ten great players. Moreover, from 1985-1991 he managed to finish as one of the 20 top players six times.


Gilbert, who participated in the Maccabiah in 1985, won a bronze medal in the first Olympic tennis tournament in Seoul 1988. During his career he made USD 5.5 million, of which USD 1.5 million came in 1990.


Danny Schayes and Arnie Greenfeld (Basketball)


The former is the son of Dolph Schayes, one of the greatest basketball players of all time (he coached the Israeli team for the Maccabiah). Danny Schayes starred in the N.B.A. in the 1980s and 90s.


Schayes was born in 1959 in Syracuse, New York, and was chosen by the Utah Jazz in the draft of 1981 (number 14). After that he starred in Denver, Milwaukee and Los Angeles Lakers. He finished his career in Orlando Magic in 1999.


The latter, Greenfeld, is the professional manager of the New York Knicks. He played in the Maccabiah in the 70s and was a member of the American team in the Olympics before his professional career in the N.B.A in the 80s.


Harrison Dillard (Track & Field)


Dillard took part in the fourth Maccabiah in 1953. Dillard is the only American sprinter who won a gold medal for 100 meters (London Olympics 1948) and also in 110 meter hurdles (Helsinki Olympics 1952). Furthermore, he won two Olympic gold medals in the 4X100 meters relay. Between May 1947 to June 1948 Dillard won 82 competitions continuously.


Agnes Kelti (Gymnastics)


The Hungarian gymnast who won ten Olympic medals (of which five were gold), is without doubt, the most successful Jewish athlete in the history of the Olympic games. Although she didn’t take part in the Maccabiah, she gave a spectacular performance in the games that took place in 1953. Kelti’s mother and sister are both Holocaust survivors who survived the war thanks to the righteous gentile Raoul Wallenberg. Kelti’s father and other family members were killed in Aushwitz-Birkenau.


After the Olympic games in Melbourne in 1956 (in which she won six medals) she left Hungary as a result of the political situation and immigrated to Israel.


Tal Brody (Basketball)


Tal Brody was born in 1943 in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 1966. During the summer of 1965 he was a member in the basketball team of the Maccabiah delegation from the U.S., and won a gold medal in the competition. Brody’s attempts to find a place on an N.B.A team failed. Instead, he joined the Maccabi Tel-Aviv basketball team and helped them win the first European cup in 1977. In addition, Brody won 10 championships and five national cups with Maccabi.


Brody played in 78 games with the Israeli team, in which he scored 1,219 points and was even a participant in the gold medal in Asia in 1974. He played 50 times for the U.S. American team and was the first and only player to represent two national teams.


Brody was honored by the Israel government twice, first in 1979, when he received the Israeli Prize and second in 2004, when he lit a torch at the 56th Israeli Independence Day ceremony.


Mitch Gaylord (Gymnastics)


The Jewish gymnast led his team to a gold medal in the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 when he was only 23 years old. He is the first American gymnast who received a score of 10. In addition, he won a silver medal and two bronze medals in those games.


At the beginning of the 1980s Gaylord was considered the best gymnast in the world. Two of the most difficult exercises in gymnastics are named after him. In 1981 he arrived to Israel to participate in the 11th Maccabiah, during which he won six gold medals out of seven events. His brother Chuck won the seventh medal.


After retiring from gymnastics, he tried his luck in the Hollywood film industry and starred in a few campaigns for well known companies such as Levis and Nike.


פרסום ראשון: 07.16.05, 23:46