TEL AVIV (Jul. 31)
The United States athletes at the 12th Maccabiah Games, which concluded here last week, copped a total of 246 medals, the highest medal total of the 38 countries that sent competitors to the Jewish olympic games. But one of the gold medals won by the United States team came not in athletic competition, but by forfeit.
The U.S. women’s basketball team was given the gold medal after the Israeli women’s basketball team refused to play the U.S. team in the final championship game because of a sudden change in venue. According to the Israeli women’s basketball team captain, Anat Dreiger, the team decided not to play the U.S. quintet because the Maccabiah organizing committee moved the final contest from Yad Eliahu to the basketball court at the Kfar Maccabiah.
In addition, the U.S. team also refused to play in the smaller stadium at the Maccabiah village, stopping the bus carrying the women’s team before getting to the arena designated by the organizing committee. The U.S. also refused to formally accept the gold medal after being declared the winner of the women’s basketball competition, on a forfeit, a result of the earlier Israeli team action.
Dreiger said her team refused to play at the Kfar Maccabiah stadium after all of their supporters had purchased tickets for the final game which was to be held at Yad Eliahu, the site of the men’s basketball finals. In that game, the U.S. team defeated the Israeli squad 95-94.
The action by the Israeli women’s basketball team came shortly after the Canadian men’s basketball club refused to play the Brazilian club at Kfar Maccabiah. They, too, insisted on moving their contest to Yad Eliahu. The Israeli Basketball Federation says it will meet to decide what punitive measures, if any, should be taken against the women’s basketball team.
The U.S. men’s basketball team, meanwhile, was led in the final game by Ed Zucker of Rutgers University in New Jersey. He scored 30 points against a weak Israeli team. The Israelis did not field their national team, with only three of their younger players from that squad on the Maccabiah team.
This was the second successive Maccabiah basketball finals played between the U.S. and Israeli teams. Four years ago, at the 11th Maccabiah Games, the U.S. also defeated the Israeli squad, a team which did not include Israel’s best competitors. At that time many of Israel’s top players were en route from international competition in Brazil when the games were being held in Israel.