Going to the Games
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Going to the Games

Local student makes Team USA for the Maccabiah competition

First she didn’t make the team, and then she did.

Then she couldn’t pay for it, and then she crowdsourced it – and she can.

Chelsea Zeig of West Nyack, N.Y., is going to the Maccabiah Games in Israel this summer as part of Team USA’s open (rather than junior) division track and field team.

The Games, “in the lamest terms, the Jewish Olympics,” as Zeig put it, attracts more than 8,500 Jewish athletes from more than 50 countries to a two-week, 20-plus sport competition in Jerusalem from July 17 to July 31. According to her, the Games are “the biggest international competition of 2013 and the third biggest international competition in the world.”

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Chelsea Zeig practices the shot put in preparation for the Maccabiah Games.

Zeig, 20, a rising senior at Lasell College in Newton, Mass., competes in fairly obscure, dangerous-sounding sports – discus, shot put, javelin, and hammer. A serious athlete, she has risen to the top level of her sport.

A member of Temple Beth Am in Pearl River, she has wanted to compete in the Maccabiah Games since her sophomore year in high school, when she first competed in the JCC Maccabi Games in Houston, as a volleyball player. Last year, she coached the Rockland JCC’s girl’s team; this year, she thought, it would be her turn.

Zeig applied for the team; in early October she was told she hadn’t made it. She was disappointed, of course, so she was thrilled to get a call from the team’s chairman, telling her that someone had dropped out. There was an opening, and she was being considered for it. “I said that my summer plans already were set – I had a job on campus – but this was something I had been dreaming about for years.”

To add to her desire to compete in the Games was the fact that it would be her first trip to Israel. “I have wanted to go to Israel all my life,” she said.

About a week later, she was told that she had made the team.

“I was ecstatic when I got that call,” she said. “I was on the T” – Boston’s public transit system – “so I had to contain my excitement, but still I saw a few people looking at me, thinking what’s wrong with this girl who is looking at her phone so oddly. Then I called my mom. She said to hold on a minute, exited her office, called me back, and started screaming.

“When I called my dad he did the same thing. He just screamed a little less.”

Zeig’s next problem was funding. Everyone on the team had to raise $5,000. Everyone else had since October, when they were notified; “but I had only six weeks,” she said. “I had very little time to raise all that money.”

What to do?

“My first instinct was to contact all of my Facebook friends. I did. And then I sent out an email to every college professor I’ve had since freshman year, the college president, the vice president, a couple of deans – resident life, student activities. I sent one to everyone I have meet at my college.

“I talked to everyone in my temple, and they put it in the temple email, which goes to all the members.

“And I also contacted all my family and friends.”

She also has a donation page campaign set up on the Maccabi USA site.

No one made a large donation. No one had to. Many people chipped in.

“I am truly humbled and so thankful to everyone,” she said. “It truly shows how many people you know, and how you can reach out to so many people.”

Chelsea Zeig now has “99 percent of what I need,” she said; she had only $63 still to go. She is definitely going to the Maccabiah Games.

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