Thirteen-Years-Old and Eighty-Five Years Young
There are over seven decades between Team Canada’s youngest and oldest athletes, but as 13-year-old Galia Oliel-Sabbag and 85-year-old Brahm Faber prepare for the 20th Maccabiah Games in Israel, they share the same enthusiasm.
Born and raised in Montreal, each of them have been practicing and competing in their sports for over half of their lives. They are familiar with goal setting, discipline and making winning a priority. But this summer, their focus is also on cultural pride as they look forward to joining 10,000 fellow athletes whom all share a passion for competition and Israel.
Galia, who is one of Canada’s rhythmic gymnasts, is excited to participate in a competition on the scale of the Maccabiah Games. No stranger to competition, Galia recently captured third place at the Eastern Canadian Gymnastics Championships and finished 5th overall in her category.
“As a sport, the grace of Rhythmic Gymnastics has always inspired me,” said Galia. “I am so excited to represent Canada and compete in Israel against the best Jewish athletes in the world.”
In addition to competing, Galia will join the entire junior delegation on the Israel Experience, a five-day educational tour of Israel that allows athletes to connect with the country on a cultural level.
Brahm, a Canadian Senior National Tennis champion is set to represent Canada for the second time at the Maccabiah Games. His first Maccabiah experience was as successful as they come, winning a gold medal in 2013. Yet, when it comes to these Games, his excitement is equally split between the competition and exploring the country, both perks that comes with the experience.
“I’m excited, but at age 85, I’m going to playing against some junior competition,” joked Brahm. “They do not have a category for 85 years and older, but I’m ready to go and to see what I can do.”
With the Opening Ceremonies less than one month away, both athletes are training regularly, trying to juggle their sports and day-to-day life; which is easier said than done.
“I’m training four days per week after school and another six hours each Saturday at the gym,” said Galia. “I’m working on my routines and learning clubs and ribbons: two events that I’ve never done at a competition.”
For Galia, when she’s not in the gym, in school or competing, she is spending time with friends and slowly working on two other passions: acting and modelling.
On the other side of town, Brahm is playing tennis three times per week and has a personal trainer who helps him stay in shape. He was recently invited to play in Tennis Canada’s Super Senior World Championships, but when he’s not holding a racquet, he is spending time with his wife, three daughters and seven grandchildren.
Age aside, as athletes, they both still have some nerves before competing, but true to form, handle it in stride.
“After a few moments of anxiety before the event, I calm down very quickly,” added Galia. “As a team, we give each other strength. We’re all so talented in different ways, and so we motivate each other and push each other to do better.”
“As much as it’s physical, at any age, half the battle is mental,” said Brahm. “Participating in the gold medal match in 2013 helped me overcome a lot of nervousness for these Games.”
At the end of the day, when the medals have been awarded and the fans have returned home, for both Brahm and Galia, the one thing that will stick with them for the rest of their lives will be pride, both as Canadians and Jews.
“The excitement and energy inside Teddy Stadium at the last Games could only be compared to the Olympics,” recalled Brahm. “Listening to the Prime Minister Netanyahu address the athletes and meeting so many people from all over the world was simply overwhelming. I can’t wait to return.”
With that in mind, when thinking of Galia and other rookies, Brahm has some sage advice: “Be proud to be Canadian, be proud you’re Jewish, be proud of Israel, but most of all, enjoy the experience!”