Passion for Cycling and Love for Israel Merge at the Maccabiah
When Roy Salomon of Maccabi Canada approached Sylvan Adams to put together the first ever Canadian competitive cycling team to participate at the Maccabiah Games in Israel for the 2009 Games, Sylvan, the head of Iberville Developments Ltd. In Montreal, accepted the challenge.
To Sylvan, who took to racing in his early 40’s and was sorry to not have participated in Maccabiah games as a baseball player when he was a child, Roy’s request struck a cord and his first inclination was very positive. For him, competing in Israel, where he met his wife and mother of his four children, was a wonderful opportunity to merge his passion for the sport and love for Israel.
As a competitive cyclist who races locally and internationally, reaching such achievements as winning the Quebec Provincial “road” and “time trial” championship and also becoming the Canadian National Road champion, Sylvan is well connected in the racing community. Last year alone, he participated in over 50 races of which he won 23 including 2 gold medals in the Pan American Cycling Championship. The challenge at the time was finding competitive Jewish cyclists who met Sylvan’s criteria for making the team.
“When you road race, you depend on the other cyclists for your safety” he says “to make the team, cyclists had to be experienced in competitive racing. I did not accept recreational riders with no racing experience, even if they were really good”. The Maccabiah Games draws excellent athletes and Sylvan wanted to stay respectful and mindful of the quality of the games. “Following an article In the Canadian Jewish News I got calls from several eager cyclists, but without a racing pedigree. I told them get yourself licensed in your province, join some races, send me the results and if you can finish those races, you’re on the team”. Among those recruited by Sylvan was Merryl Collins, a former Canadian champion.
“Once in Israel, the opening ceremonies of the games were fantastic!” Sylvan recalls. “I have been to Athens and Vancouver for the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, the ceremonies in Ramat Gan were as impressive. I walked in the World Masters Championship in Sydney to a stadium of 70,000 cheering spectators. Walking into Ramat Gan stadium meant a lot more to me, because it was exceptionally nice to see all these Jewish athletes who love sport and excel in it. The celebration of a worldwide Jewish sporting event was uplifting. And… it is Israel!”.
The “time trial” race took place in the Negev next to Sderot in the middle of the scorching hot Israeli summer. The race started at 8am and the athletes who throughout the Games stayed in Tel Aviv, stayed in Kibbutz Urim the night before. The kibbutz invited the athletes to stay in the homes of Kibbutz members. To Adams it was an unforgettable experience: “It was like being 15 years old again and going to the Cheder Ochel” he recalls. The road race was in Ashdod, required no over-night accommodations and ran along the beautiful beach at the 38 degrees heat.
The “time trial” race at Kibbutz Urim took place the day of the opening ceremonies in the morning. Sylvan was the only athlete to walk at the opening ceremonies after already winning a gold medal. As he walked into Ramat Gan Stadium with a medal around his neck, kids from different countries surrounded him wanting to see the medal, their enthusiasm added to the experience and the excitement.
The Canadian cycling team brought a dozen athletes to the 2009 Maccabiah Games where Adams won 3 gold medals: in “time trial”, “road” race and team competition. No other athlete at these games won 3 gold medals singlehandedly. Merryl Collins, his teammate, won the gold medal for “road” racing. All together the Canadian cycling team won 7 medals.
When asked what he thought attributed to his success as a businessman and as an athlete Sylvan replied: “A person’s true characteristic is revealed under the duress of sport. For example, if a person is aggressive or timid, it comes out. I love competition, in my first year I won due to ambition, daring to fail, not through talent”.
As for the Maccabiah Games in 2013 says Sylvan, who has already won 17 races this year: “all things being equal I would love to be there again”.
We are looking forward to seeing Sylvan wearing the Maccabi Canada cycling jersey in 2013.