The Maccabiah Games kick off on July 12 and one thing athletes competing in Israel can count on is that it will be hot. As in, relentless, sun-drenched 30 degree hot.
With that in mind, the coach of the Canadian women’s soccer team, has instructed all 16 players to prepare for the games by practicing hot yoga. That’s the exercise discipline where participants go through a series of postures and stretches in a studio heated to 40 degrees celsius. It’s designed to limber up the body while expelling nasty toxins through sweat.
The hot yoga experience is part of a preparatory regimen designed by coach Chris Lewis that includes gym work outs and reminders to stay hydrated. That preparation will hopefully give the women’s team a leg up when they compete in Israel.
Maccabi Canada has never sent an open (adult) women’s team to the games before though four years ago a junior girls team won the bronze medal in a three-country competition.
This year the Canadians will face contingents from Britain, the United States, Australia and Israel, said Jacqui Markowitz, manager of the women’s team.
“I don’t know the competition but I expect it to be stiff,” she said. “But we have some very good players on the team and we have so much heart. The team has this wonderful spirit about it and that can take you far.”
The team will rely on a handful of college varsity-level talent, including Markowitz’s daughter, Nicole, who plays for York University, Anne Friedland, who earned a soccer scholarship at Brown University in the NCAA, and Leah Peric, goalkeeper for the University of British Columbia.
The others are good players recruited across the country with a variety of soccer backgrounds, including Nicole’s sister Jesse, who played on the junior team four years ago. Lewis, their Winnipeg-based coach, has led three women’s teams to Provincial Cup championships and has twice coached women’s teams at the Canada Games, Markowitz stated.
Rachel Lowenstein, 20, is a midfielder from Vancouver who has been playing soccer since she was a kid. Twice a provincial high school champion with Point Grey Secondary School, she also was on the Vancouver team that competed at the JCC Maccabi (youth) Games in New Jersey six years ago.
That team “did not do that well,” she recalled.
Four years ago she made the cut for the junior team that went to the Maccabiah, but other commitments did not permit her to go.
This time she’s one of four British Columbia players to make the team.
“I think it’s an amazing opportunity to come together with other Jewish athletes from around the world,” she said. “It’s great that this is the first time there’s a Canadian women’s team.”
Lowenstein has visited Israel before as part of a Biluim youth trip. Formerly of Toronto, she attended United Synagogue Day School before her family moved to British Columbia seven years ago.
Her teammate, Nicole Markowitz, is a veteran of the Maccabiah sports experience. A member of the junior team four years ago, she recalled the games as “an amazing experience. It was my first time going.
“The opening ceremonies were amazing. It was like nothing I was expecting. They went all out, the performance, tons of people watching. It was a really good surprise.”
As part of the Maccabiah experience, the team was taken on tours of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.
They also mingled with athletes from around the world: “It was cool meeting people from all different countries” and making long term friends with other girls on the Canadian team, Markowitz, 20, said.
She’s been training four days a week in preparation for the games, working out with the team she played for last year as a midfielder/striker, the Lady Lynx, as well as York U.
On July 5, Maccabi Canada’s five soccer teams – open men and women, junior boys and girls and Masters (35+) – will gather for a four-day training camp at various fields in G Ross Lord Park.
The women’s team was selected from more than 40 women who tried out last summer, Jacqui Markowitz said. To commit to the games speaks to their “joy for Israel and their Jewish identity. To my mind, these are our future leaders.”