Written By Logan Schiciano
David Linn’s Maccabi USA experience began in Argentina in 1995.
28 years and two medals later, he’s returning to South America’s second-largest country to compete with the Masters 45+ Men’s Soccer Team at the 15th Pan American Maccabi Games.
While a lot has changed in David’s life since the Games in 1995, what keeps him coming back is his teammates. David, who is the squad’s captain, said they’ve remained largely intact and in touch since the 21st Maccabiah last summer in Israel.
“What’s special for our team is not just the games itself, but the journey over the months and years leading up to it. It’s really a special thing,” he said.
David grew up in Deerfield, Illinois where his parents helped found a conservative synagogue. He played collegiate soccer at nearby Northwestern University. After four years patrolling the Wildcats’ midfield, David made the leap to the next level, joining the Chicago Stingers of the United Soccer League. He hung up his professional boots after three seasons and went to Harvard to get his masters degree in business administration.
He met his eventual wife Jennifer in Cambridge. But only one year after the two got married in 2003, they got devastating news when Jen was diagnosed with a rare cancer called MFH sarcoma.
The diagnosis could have completely derailed the couple, but instead they used the horrible news as a springboard for a new foundation: Cycle For Survival.
The nonprofit partners with Equinox gyms across the country to hold events each winter, where teams bike to raise money for rare cancer research conducted by Memorial Sloan Kettering.
“We started to realize that Cycle For Survival could be this platform for people to show their love and actually help by getting more money into research,” David said. “It started out focused on Jen, but what happened was these people around the country started riding for their own Jen – a brother, a sister, a friend who was going through a cancer battle. People felt real ownership over it which was really critical.”
Jen tragically passed away in 2011. But the success of the foundation has motivated David to keep growing it. He said Cycle For Survival has raised almost $350 million for rare cancer research, and he looks forward to the next round of cycling events right after the Games.
This year David will be traveling to Buenos Aires with his girlfriend Kathy Carter. Kathy is the CEO of the LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games, meaning she’s in charge of all the planning and execution of the first Summer Olympics held in the U.S. since 1996.
“People are excited to meet me, but they’re really excited to meet Kathy. She’s the best,” David said.
A former soccer player herself, Kathy is apparently Maccabi USA’s good luck charm – David’s squad has dominated at previous Games when she’s in the stands. Despite her busy schedule, David said the team is requiring her to be there from the very beginning in Argentina.
But they also know luck alone won’t be enough to snatch the gold medal away from the host nation, who won the tournament at the 21st Maccabiah last summer. The team has already organized several mindset sessions, and players are seeing nutritionists, using fitness trackers and watching film from previous tournaments.
“We’ve probably taken it to another level for these games,” David said. “We’re doing whatever we can to find that little incremental improvement in a number of areas.”
In 1995, David’s Maccabi USA team was crushed by Argentina. While he’s had to wait 28 years for some revenge right where it all started, Linn hopes a fearless attitude and a strong appreciation for each other will push the Masters 45+ Men’s Soccer Team to a golden performance this time around.
Logan Schiciano is from Goldens Bridge, New York. He is a junior at Northwestern University. Connect with him on Twitter @Logan Schiciano, Instagram @Logan.Schiciano and follow him at www.maccabiusa.com