Garret Weber-Gale picked up his first gold medal of the Maccabiah games on Sunday, winning the men’s 100-meter freestyle final in 48.99 seconds at the Wingate Institute.

The 27-year-old American, who claimed two gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as part of the USA freestyle relay teams, finished over a second ahead of his closest rival, countryman Marcus Schlesinger (50.48s), with Israel’s Alexei Konovalov taking the bronze in a time of 50.69s.

The USA also won the gold and silver in the women’s 100m free final. Andrea Murez finished first in 55.09s, with Leah Goldman touching the wall second, almost two seconds later (57.01s).

Israel’s Amit Ivry won the bronze in a time of 57.19s.

Elsewhere, the fencing competitions started on Sunday at the Zionist Youth Village in Jerusalem.

Vladimir Shklar, chairman of Israel’s fencing association and vice president of the European confederation, sees the Maccabiah as a great preparation for the Israeli team ahead of the World Championship that will be held in Budapest, Hungary. “Three world cadet and junior champions came here, Alona Komarov (Israel), Yuval Freilich (Israel) and Alexandra Magdic (Russia). We also have coaches who are Olympic medalists such as Alan Jay (England), Gregory Kris (Russia) and Masha Mazina (Russia).”

Shklar added: “As a Jerusalem resident, I am very proud that the contests are being held in the capital of Israel. The professional level is very high. I am very pleased with the Israeli fencing team and I wish all the athletes a lot of success in the games.”

One of the most interesting (and romantic) stories comes from the Israeli Juniors team, which includes cadet world champion Alona Komarov (17) and her boyfriend Ariel Drisdin (18).

They met in the Maccabi Ma’alot fencing club three years ago and have been together ever since.

Ariel is joining the army next month and Alona is considered one of Israel’s medal hopes for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“I care for Alona as much as I care for myself. We give each other strength; it makes the contests a little bit easier,” Drisdin said.

Alona started practicing at age 11 in Ma’alot and has remained dedicated ever since.

“It is great that so many Jews come to the Maccabiah, it’s an event that brings us all together, it’s really fun taking part in this,” she said.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger