Five medals for Jeff – open Gold for Mikaela

July 30, 2013 by David Weiner-Maccabi NSW
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When Melbourne’s Jeff Sher left Israel in 2009 with four Maccabiah gold medals around his neck, he was a pretty satisfied athlete…but this year he brings home five!

Jeff Sher in action

Jeff Sher in action

Jeff Sher and medals

Jeff Sher and medals

Sher also broke Israeli records in the 50m and 200m freestyle and won an unexpected gold in the 50+ open water swim – with a time three minutes quicker than second in his age group, and so good he was .6s off winning the over-35 division!

It’s a great reward for Jeff, who has worked his way back after eight months on the sidelines after snapping his Achilles tendon at the MAIGS in December 2010.

Jeff’s haul in the 50m, 100m, 200m, 400m freestyle and the 1.5km ocean swim also achieved a rare feat in swimming – success in both short and long range distances.

“I’m feeling very pleased,” Jeff admitted. “It’s a rare to win four at one meet, but then to come back and do it again, I’m feeling pretty proud.

“(After being out for eight months), lying on my back, rehabilitating – to do this, wasn’t in my wildest dreams.

“But hard work pays off. I trained six days a week for two years and without having a goal like Maccabiah to work towards I would’ve taken a lot longer. It drove me much harder than otherwise. 

“Maccabiah does a whole lot of things; it lifts the Jewish community but it also has personal satisfaction come out of it … What do I focus on now?”

While Jeff has a bag of medals to quantify his success, he says the overall performance of the squad has been particularly gratifying, given the work MAI have put into the sport post-2009. 

“Four years ago we set ourselves a goal to generate the next generation of swimmers,” Jeff said. 

“We were a bit concerned about the dearth of swimmers coming through so we developed a National Swimming Committee to continue connecting the community but also to build continuity for the sport. 

“It paid off … and set the platform for the next generation to follow.

“That’s as satisfying as anything personal”.

Mikaela Rifkin  has won our first open swimming gold since Debbie Stone in 1981.


Mikaela Rifkin and Jeff Sher

She prevailed in the 1.5km opens ocean swim to round out a fabulous Games for Australia in the water.

17-year-old Rifkin is the youngest in a proud Maccabi family.

Her brother David is the masters swimming manager, both he and brother Daniel have won relay medals previously and their father Julian won a cycling bronze at the last Games.

But the ‘baby’ of the family has brought home the coveted gold.

”It’s amazing,” Mikaela said.

”I’m so excited to show them the medal.”

Mikaela was chuffed to learn about her drought-breaking exploits – especially since the ocean swim was only an afterthought for when her indoor program was complete.

“No (it was a surprise), I was going to do it (the ocean swim) for fun,” Mikaela said.

”The race was a bonus – and then to stand on the podium, that was so cool.”

Her performance was so good, getting lost didn’t even matter!

”I honestly didn’t think I did well,” Mikaela explains.

”On the way back after the fourth buoy I started going straight but you’re supposed to veer and as soon as I saw that I sprinted. I couldn’t see anyone. It was funny.”

Brother David couldn’t hide his pride at his sister’s exploits.

“For a little girl who dreamed of the Games two years ago and trained her little heart out in her first national squad, to just move into the opens as one of the youngest members on the team … Micky made our family proud today,” David beamed.

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