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'Eye-opener': How Maccabi opened new world for teen swim giant

Posted: 19-May-2019 by PanAm Games 2019

Just 15 years old and already standing at a towering six-foot-five, it’s hard to believe up-and-coming swim star Zak Levine is Jewish.

In fact, hailing from Canberra, he would hardly be able to tell you what a Jew of his age generally looks like – he had barely met one before linking up with Maccabi for the Pan-American Games in Mexico in July.

“It’s been a bit of an eye-opener and it’s been to meet other Jews who also have a love for swimming like I do,” Levine said.

“Especially going to meet other national representatives from other clubs, the experience to be involved with the activities that they do has been amazing.”

When Levine boards the plane, alongside a small but strong swimming contingent, he’ll head off to represent his country abroad for the first time. However, it won’t be the first time someone in his family will pull on the green and gold.

His mum represented Great Britain at two Maccabiah Games and was a member of the netball squad that infamously beat Australia for gold back in 1997.

Zak Levine is heading to the Maccabi Pan-American Games in Mexico

 “My mum has been to Maccabiah twice and has won a couple of medals, it’s one thing that mum’s been proud to have achieved,” Levine said.

“It’s always something she constantly reminds me about with the experience of that and the opportunity it opened for her.”

The monster 15-year-old will compete in the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle at the PanAms, while 100m and 200m backstroke will also be on the program. Having already registered personal best times at his first national championships earlier this year, Levine is keen to test himself on the global stage.

Not like he needed any further motivation to push himself to the limits, a cheeky bet with his dad is propelling the young gun to push even harder.

“I’m hoping to make towards the top eight in a couple of events, just to prove my dad that I’m actually good enough to do something,” he jokes.

“If I make top eight he has to buy me $1500 shoes.”

Should the teen come in among the top eight competitors in any of his events, he’ll net himself a pair of Balenciaga Triple S shoes – a prize he assures is worth the effort.

And if there’s a coach who knows a thing or two about getting the job done in the pool for Maccabi overseas, it’s Anthony Goodridge. The Maccabi legend has coached at eight Maccabiah Games and will be keeping a watchful eye over the progress of Levine and our other junior swimmers.

“For Zak, this is one of the few times he has contact with other Jewish kids, and one of the rare times he gets contact with other Jewish kids that actually swim,” Goodridge said.

“I think that’s a pretty powerful part of what we do with Maccabi. The Maccabi motto is bringing our community together through sport and Zak is a perfect example of that.”