By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
For Brynn Bank, participating in the Maccabiah Games turned out to be more than she could have ever expected.
“It was an incredible experience,” the Princeton resident said. “It was probably the best experience of my life. I could not have thought of a better way to spend this summer before I head to college.”
Bank, who was graduated from the Hun School in June and will head to Dartmouth College at the end of this month, qualified to participate in the Open Division of the Women’s Squash event at the Maccabiah Games, which are held every four years in Israel and are often referred to as the Jewish Olympics.
The international competition brings together athletes from around the world to compete in various Olympic style events.
“I was a little bit aware of it,” Bank said of her prior knowledge of the games. “My dad played tennis in the Pan American Maccabiah Games, so he knew about it and I have known people who have played or volunteered or been a part of it. A couple of years ago my brother looked into it for swimming but he didn’t go.”
Not only did Brynn Bank go to the games this year, but she came back with a gold medal after capturing the final, 4-1, over Stav Cohen-Adiv of Israel.
“I played in the Open, so you had to be between 18 and 50 and then after that there is Masters,” Bank said. “There is also a Juniors division. In the finals I played at Israeli girl who is 24. In the earlier rounds I played some older ladies. I think I was the youngest on my team. The Israeli team was all older players. The whole Israeli team was very strong. We had people there who were there more for the experience.”
Bank was one of three women on the USA Open Women’s team. This was the 40th year that squash has been part of the Maccabiah Games. She was glad that she was able to find out the process involved in time to be a part of the contingent that went to Israel.
“We have a family friend whose son was going to play for the Juniors, so he said I should look into it,” Bank said. “We looked into it and at that point registration was technically closed. I emailed them and with my ranking and where I going to college I was able to get to be part of the team. I think they just needed some more players. I got into the application process late but we emailed back and forth and I was able to participate.”
Bank went into the Maccabiah Games with no expectations as far as results on the court. Coming away with a gold medal made an already incredible experience even better.
“It was really cool,” Bank said. “My parents didn’t go but I think they wish they were there. I called them after and they said we didn’t think you would win.”
Bank has been playing squash since middle school, including the last four years as a high level player at tournaments.
“I stared in sixth grade when we moved to Princeton,” she said. “I took it pretty seriously in middle school and then in high school was when I was playing every day. The last two years we had a team at Hun and that was really nice.”
Bank heads to Dartmouth with the experience of having competed at a high level while she was in Israel. And she got much more out of the time spent there than just competing on the squash court.
“We were there for three weeks,” Bank said. “The first week was touring and training. The touring was so incredible. I had never been to Israel so that was all brand new and exciting being with the other team members. The second two weeks I was with the squash team. We stayed in Tel Aviv and if you were not playing you could go and get food or go to the market. You could do your own exploring. That was good. It was just an overall great experience.”
Some of the other participants with local ties to compete at the Maccabiah Games included Princeton University assistant softball coach Nicole Arias, who was the head coach of the USA softball tram that captured the gold medal. Others with PU ties who competed included recent graduate Sivan Krems, who captured silver medals in singles and doubles in women’s tennis; 2017 graduate Joshua Habermas was part of the gold medal winning USA men’s soccer team; soccer players Benjamin Issroff and David Goldstein also were part of the USA team. Claire Kausner helped the softball team to a gold medal as a pitcher.
Yael Yonah, a recent West Windsor-Plainsboro High South graduate, competed in field hockey.
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor