Written By Ari Wohl
At the 21st Maccabiah in Israel, artistic gymnast Maddie Chao earned a silver medal in the Junior all-around event. This year, Chao will aim higher in the Open division at the Pan American Maccabi Games in Argentina.
“Last year Israel took home gold and they had the home-court advantage, so I’m hoping we can [win] this time,” Chao said.
To reach that goal, the Californian has been training 24 hours a week at South Coast Gymnastics in Irvine and has been practicing the sport since she was two years old.
Chao is already looking forward to the experience as much as the competition.
Last summer, she said, “I got to meet so many people from different places all around the world, and hear different languages.”
Chao is particularly interested in languages. She attended a French school through 8th grade and has become fluent in French.
When she’s not in the gym or studying at Sage Hill School in Newport Beach, California, she also volunteers at a non-profit organization called Oui-Tutor where she teaches kids French and English and is the Social Media Co-chair.
This winter in South America she is looking forward to practicing her Spanish and immersing herself in Argentina’s culture.
She is also eager to connect with the Jewish community like she did in Israel.
“My favorite part was meeting so many different people,” Chao recalled.
Other highlights included visiting the Dead Sea and becoming close friends with the rhythmic gymnastics team.
Chao has stayed in touch with several athletes that she befriended in Israel, and is excited to meet new ones this winter.
But above all, in Buenos Aires, Chao is ready to show how much she has improved since last year, even if, at 16, she may be one of the youngest US members on the Open team.
Ari Wohl is a California native and junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Follow him on Instagram (a.wohl1), Twitter (@a_wohl1), and at www.maccabiusa.com.