Amber Avroya, 17, of Coral Springs felt a great deal of Jewish pride while competing at the recent 2017 Maccabiah Games in Israel where she won a bronze medal in Taekwondo.
The Maccabiah Games, known as the Jewish Olympics, are an international Jewish and Israeli multi-sport event held quadrennial in Israel.
This recent competition strengthened Avroya’s Jewish identity. It was the first time she’s visited Israel.
“I learned a lot about the country and I had the opportunity to see a lot of things I never got to see before that I’ve always wanted to see.”
Among the many highlights for Avroya on this trip were seeing the City of David, the Western Wall, Dead Sea, Masada, and the Children’s Memorial that recognizes the children that were murdered during World War II.
Julie Blandford, Avroya’s mother, said her daughter’s been looking forward to this opportunity since she found about the Maccabiah Games.
“She’s wanted to make the team since she was 11 year old and when she did make that team, she was very excited to connect to her Jewish roots, to experience Israel and meet family she’s never met before.”
Avroya said, “It was an honor to compete in my father’s home country while representing my country, the USA.”
Avroya has been doing Taekwondo since she was 10-years-old. She practices daily at Peak Performance training facilities in Coral Springs and Miami. She was the senior national champion at the 2016 U.S. Taekwondo National Championships in Richmond, Va. where she competed against athletes ranging in ages 16 to 32. This achievement made her feel “really accomplished.” She has her sights set on competing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
When asked to compare competing in the Maccabiah Games to other competitions, Avroya responded, “With Maccabiah, since we are all Jewish, it felt like we were all united.
It’s different because in other competitions not everyone is one religion.”
Competing with other Jewish athletes and seeing the Jewish pride at these games made her feel much more proud of her religion. With her father being from Israel and having family members living there, she felt much more connected to her family on this recent trip.
“I hadn’t seen a lot of my family members in years so that felt really good. I also got see where they live so that made me feel more connected.”
Avroya will be attending Broward College this fall. When asked to describe positive influences in her life, she mentioned her coach, Russell Beneby.
“He just pushes me every day to be the best I can be in Taekwondo and in life,” she said.
Beneby said about Avroya, “She’s very dedicated, training six days a week and twice a day four days a week at least.
She has a lot of potential. Based on the last result of the senior level, she’s third in the country.”
Beneby described the goals for Avroya’s future.
“I’m very excited about her future and next year, we’ll be looking forward to trying to get her to qualify for the Youth Olympic Games, which are ages 16-18 and held every four years.”
Beneby continued, “The ultimate goal next year would be to amass ranking points and get her into the World Taekwondo Grand Prix Series and then from there begin the process to qualify her for the 2020 Olympics. Since she is self-motivated, I believe in her ability to get to the Olympics.”