Jason Lezak 88 248.
(photo credit: Matreetta TALSI)
Gold medal-winning Olympic swimmer Jason Lezak has decided to give up the chance of competing in this summer's World Championships so that he can swim at the 18th Maccabiah Games in Israel.
The 33-year-old was part of the USA 4x100m medley relay and 4x100m freestyle relay teams which both included Michael Phelps and won gold at the Beijing Games last August.
Lezak, who also won a bronze medal in the 100m freestyle, would have travelled to Rome for the annual World Championships which run from July 18 to August 2, but instead will be representing the USA in the pool at the Wingate Institute.
The athlete said he was "fulfilling a lifelong dream" by competing at the Maccabiah, the event known as the 'Jewish Olympics' which takes place every four years.
"This is a decision I made which is as much about giving back to the Jewish community and exploring my heritage as it is about the performance on the world stage" said Lezak.
"I'll be representing my country and my heritage as a Jewish athlete and I'm very proud of that. I now have the opportunity to go to the Maccabiah Games in Israel. "
Ron Carner, General Chairman of the USA Maccabiah Team, was proud of Lezak's decision.
"Jason Lezak's swimming accomplishments embody exactly what the Maccabiah Games are all about," Carner said.
"His acts of fortitude, strength and perseverance are shining examples of what MUSA aims to project. His displays of courage will be an inspiration to the other 950 USA Maccabiah Team members. We are proud and honored to have him as a member of the Team.
Lezak, who has competed in the past at the JCC Maccabi Games, will use the opportunity to promote grass roots efforts by Maccabi USA.
He will partner with Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel, the sponsor of the USA Maccabiah Team, in the creation of a new initiative to help raise funds for raise funds for MUSA, a volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization that uses sports to strengthen Jewish Identity, promote Jewish Continuity, foster Jewish Pride and create strong bonds with the State of Israel.