Written By Evan Oscherwitz
Judo competition at the 21st Maccabiah came to a close Monday in Hadera, but members of the U16 and U18 junior teams got to enjoy hands-on instruction from several highly-decorated judokas after the last medals were handed out.
Four-time European champion Ariel Ze’evi and 2020 Olympic bronze medalist Peter Paltchik organized a training session to teach the youngsters new moves and to help them correct issues with their technique. 2012 Olympic gold medalist and defending world champion Lasha Shavdatuashvili, a friend of Paltchik’s, handled the coaching duties during the two hour-long clinic.
Ze’evi, the chairman of the current Maccabiah, originally came up with the idea to hold the clinic. He said that he wanted young competitors, particularly those who failed to reach the medal rounds, to remember the games as more than just another competition.
“In judo, you can lose a match in ten, fifteen seconds,” Ze’evi said. “And then… the experience is finished. I decided that in a sport like this, we will invite a superstar (like Shavdatuashvili). [The competitors] will see him, take photos with him and learn something from him, and then the experience will be much more than one fight. That was the idea.”
Although the clinic aimed to assist athletes who failed to advance in the competition, competitors who performed well in the tournament, like Solomon Resnick of the bronze medal-winning American U16 squad, also relished the opportunity to learn from some of the best judokas in the world.
“It’s so rare to find an Olympian who’s willing to do a clinic like this,” Resnick said. “I think it’s pretty cool and I’d like to get more chances to do [another clinic] like this.”
The clinic may have achieved its intended goal, but Ze’evi sees potential for improvement in the years to come. Only competitors from Israel, Brazil, the United States, Germany and Azerbaijan participated in the clinic, whereas other delegations left prior to the start of the event. Ze’evi said he hopes more athletes will take part in the future.
“I’m disappointed that all the [visiting] judo players are not here,” he said. I hoped that all of them would come, but it’s okay. Next time we will arrange it even better.”
Although the attendance figures failed to live up to Ze’evi’s expectations, the clinic was a massive success overall, and if all goes according to plan, it should be a mainstay at the Maccabiah for years to come.