When the 18th Maccabiah Games get under way this July in Jerusalem, one of Pittsburgh’s own will be representing her country.
Emma Leibowicz, daughter of Joseph Leibowicz and The Chronicle’s community editor Angela Leibowicz, was chosen for the women’s open tennis team for this year’s competition.
Out of the many who tried out, Leibowicz is one of only six heading to Israel.
Originally chosen as an alternate in November, she got the call while on her way to another tennis tournament with her teammates from Binghamton University, near the end of April.
“I wanted to scream,” she said. “I couldn’t really call my parents because I was in such a small van with all of my teammates. I was freaking out and telling all my teammates. As soon as I could call my parents I told them; I was so excited, so speechless.”
When she told her friends and teammates, most of them didn’t know the magnitude of the Maccabiah Games — the Jewish Olympics.
“They were all excited,” she said. “Most of them don’t know what the Maccabiah games are. A lot of Jews didn’t know either, which surprised me.”
After being named an alternate, Leibowicz never thought she would get a call to be on the team.
“I never expected to get the call,” she said. “I didn’t think about it. What are the chances someone was going to drop out?”
Leibowicz started playing tennis at the age of 5, and played in her first tournament when she was 8. Since their restoration in 2007 by the Frick Park Clay Court Tennis Club, she has considered the historic Frick Park red clay courts on Braddock Avenue her home court, winning the Paul Sullivan Tournament there last July. Leibowicz was City League Champion when she played for Taylor Allderdice and just completed her freshman year playing for Binghamton’s Division I team.
While she has played in a couple of national tournaments, she has never played in an international tournament.
“I’ve played smaller tournaments,” she said. This is just a whole different level. This is just so different. I could be playing against pros, who knows.”
She will represent the U.S. team, playing on the women’s open tennis team. The United States is bringing teams in four divisions.
Leibowicz will head to Israel July 2, to begin training with her teammates. While she knows a couple of them from playing in other tournaments, she doesn’t know most of the team. The team will train for two weeks to figure out pairings for the doubles portion of the competition.
“I’ve played against one of the girls before,” she said. “But I don’t really know them. Israel will be the first chance we really meet and get to train together. Those two weeks will let us see who plays well together and who should be matched up.”
She will compete in the singles, doubles and mixed doubles tournaments during the competition.
Leibowicz won’t be playing tennis the whole time. She has family in Israel and hasn’t seen them since her last trip there when she was 10. Representing the United States, she will also be able to go to the other events and support her fellow athletes.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my relatives, I haven’t seen them in 10 years,” she said. “I can’t wait to root the U.S. team on. It’s a big thing for everyone and I just want to be there, supporting everyone.”
While being named to the team is an honor, Leibowicz still has that competitive side that wants to medal at the Maccabiah Games.
“I want to do well. The experience will just be great. I’ll do my best.”
(Mike Zoller can be reached at email@example.com.)