Penn AC’s Ethan Genyk and Brooke Wolford medaled in four events each during a jam-packed week at the Maccabiah Games, held July 4-18 in Israel. The duo teamed up with rowers from across the country to represent the U.S. in multiple sweep and sculling events. They raced on the Sea of Galilee, a fresh water lake in Israel, and navigated extreme heat, wind and logistical challenges while earning their podium finishes.
“Racing was awesome!” said Wolford. “Some of our biggest competition was Israel and Russia. We had to be really meticulous with how we raced since the men and women were using the same boats for many of the races.”
“For example,” she explained, “the women and men had pairs races and doubles races one morning. We had to make transitions with the boats as quickly as possible without any mistakes. Also, we had to adapt to over 100 degree weather and windy conditions on the racecourse.”
Genyk, a Philadelphia native and rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania, teamed up with Noah Chaskin (Schenectady, N.Y.; United States Naval Academy) in the men’s pair and men’s double sculls to earn two silver medals for the United States. Genyk and Chaskin were then joined by Josh Kuppersmith (Glencoe, Ill.; Harvard University) and David Wexner (Columbus, Ohio; Harvard University) in the men’s four and men’s quadruple sculls. Both boats crossed the line third, earning bronze medal finishes to add to the count.
“We had a great race in the pair for bronze and same thing with the double,” said Genyk. “We were way overmatched in the quad. We raced against Israeli national teamers including Danny Fridman who got ninth in the single at World Cup III.“
“The four we should have won,” he continued. “We were up by about a length over Israel at about 250m in but then our steering broke midway through. We couldn’t go straight, moved over like five lanes and just lost by 0.6 seconds.”
Wolford (Santa Rosa, Calif.; University of Central Oklahoma), who started training with Penn AC’s High Performance Group in November 2016, earned bronze in the women’s double sculls and gold in the women’s pair, women’s four and women’s quadruple sculls. She teamed up with Ilana Zieff (Boston, Mass.; Riverside Boat Club) in the double and Samantha Kolvson (Wayland, Mass.; University of Massachusetts) in the pair. Chloe Fishman (Palo Alto, Calif.; Georgetown University) joined the three women in the four, contributing to the podium finishes for the United States.
“I think the Maccabiah Games were a great stepping stone to getting experience in racing in many different boats, specifically sculling boats,” said Wolford. “I know I gained knowledge about myself and how to travel and race successfully. It was also nice to get to row with other people and in many different positions in the boat… I stroked the quad and bowed the four,” she said.
In terms of the highlight of the Games, Wolford said that she doesn’t think she can pick out just one and that the trip was much more than just a competition.
“It had a ton of meaning about being Jewish, whether you think of yourself as super religious or take more cultural meaning from the word… It was amazing to bring home three gold medals and a bronze but, in the end, a huge highlight has been staying connected to my fellow Jewish rowers across the world… seeing where they are in their training and hearing about their individual goals.”
For Genyk, the highlight of the Games was the opening ceremony in Jerusalem.
“The opening ceremonies were almost exactly like the Olympics, with each country’s delegation marching in – very cool,” he said. “We got to walk in representing the United States and it was just an unbelievable moment.”
Learn more about the Maccabiah Games and see results from the 2017 event HERE.