Local swim coach Doug Markoff is in Israel for the 20th World Maccabiah Games. The Maccabiah Games are the 3rd largest International Sports Festival on the planet with more than 10,000 participants representing 88 countries this year. This is Markoff’s 3rd time as a Head Coach of the US National Team at the Maccabiah Games. “I’ve been very fortunate to be part of these games and to represent the United States. These games are unique in not only bringing world class athletes together from all over the world, but Jewish athletes from every corner of the globe to Israel.”
This year was a particularly strong team for the United States, with 17 out of the 24 swimmers (12 men and 12 women) having multiple Olympic Trials cuts, World Championships qualifiers and US National Team members, and included 3-time US Olympian and 2-time Olympic Champion, Anthony Ervin.
“Every team has been made up of NCAA champions, Olympic Trials finalists and Olympic Champions, but this team was just crazy talented. We had to turn down kids with Olympic Trial cuts because they just weren’t fast enough. That still blows my mind,” Markoff said. “I’ve had the privilege of getting to know and work with Olympic legends – Jason Lezak, Lenny Krazylburg, Garrett Weber-Gale and now Tony Ervin. Sitting around and just shooting the breeze with Lenny, Tony and Jason this year was a surreal experience for me.”
Markoff also noted, “It’s not just the Olympians that make this special, it’s all the kids on the team. I started in 2009 as the Junior Team coach and have had some participate in multiple games with me and gotten to watch them grow up. I’ve even been fortunate enough to bring some of the kids I’ve coached here at home.”
The swimming competition just finished up and Team USA racked up 41 medals, including 17 golds, 15 silvers and 9 bronze, and setting 13 new Maccabiah records along the way. “The medals and the records are gravy. It’s the friendships and relationships I’ve made along the way, the life transforming nature of these games as a coach, athlete and Jew that keep me coming back. I have my team for only 3 weeks each time but each time a lifelong bond is formed. I’m a very lucky man.”