Local teen makes Maccabiah squad
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Local teen makes Maccabiah squad

David Frankl preps for the Maccabiah Games.

David Frankl can run rings around most other kids his age.

In fact, the teenage gymnast is so accomplished on the rings – his favorite gymnastics competition – that he’s earned a trip to the World Maccabiah Games, to be held in Israel from July 13 to 23.

That’s quite an accomplishment for a 15-year-old high school freshman who loves the Yankees and the Jets, listening to rap, and playing classical music on his violin.

The 18th games, which start in Tel Aviv and end in Jerusalem, are expected to attract 9,000 athletes from more than 60 countries.

David will show his expertise not only on the rings but also in other gymnastics events, including the parallel bars, high bar, and pommel horse. For him, it’s second nature: He’s been doing it since he was 4.

“My older sister was into it and I thought it would be cool if I did it too,” said David, a Franklin Lakes resident who attends Montclair Kimberly Academy.

Jessica Frankl, now 17, has given up the sport but David has no plans to follow suit. He trains 25 hours per week and competes in meets all over the country. He’s already made two appearances at the Men’s Junior Olympic National Championships and hopes to qualify for the May 2009 event in Cincinnati.

His accomplishments include finishing second in the all-around, vault, and parallel bars and third in the high bar competitions in the State of New Jersey and making the semi-finals in the pommel horse event at the Nationals. He also won a medal for his parallel bars performance in Dallas and finished sixth in the Maccabiah Gymnastics Trials, held in Oklahoma City. That showing won him a spot on the U.S. Junior Boys Gymnastics Team with five juniors. In the past year, he also became a Level 10 performer.

Asked about his training regimen, David has a ready response. “Training is difficult,” he said. “You have to be pretty dedicated to gymnastics. I try to come home, relax, go to the gym, and do my homework.”

He also finds time for weekly violin lessons and practice sessions with his school orchestra (75 minutes every other day). Proving that practice pays off, the Montclair Kimberly orchestra has performed at Carnegie Hall.

That appearance helped allay any fear of crowds David might have had.

He chose gymnastics, he said, because it represented a chance for self-improvement.

“I think gymnastics is the hardest sport I’ve ever encountered, so it’s the most interesting for me,” he explained. “I like the team sports I played [baseball and soccer], but it’s good to have personal responsibility for everything that happens.”

Winning an invite to Israel has been his top thrill thus far.

David had been there before, most recently for his bar mitzvah in Ein Gedi, at the site of an ancient Dead Sea temple. His coach, Genadi Shub, and his father, Andy, converse in Hebrew – a language his dad suggests he will speak by the time he returns from his coming summer trip.

According to his father, head of the New York-based Ibex Construction, “David is very smart – in advanced classes at school – and can do all these things because he pushes himself, schedules his own time, and is very disciplined.”

So is the coach, a champion gymnast in his native Ukraine before becoming the coach of Israel’s Olympic gymnastics team. He’s been working with David for the last five years.

“He improved a lot last year,” said the coach of his star protégé. “He grew up a lot. It takes time to learn the right techniques, and he’s still very young. But I think he’s on the way to the regional team this year and then maybe he’ll make the finals in the national championships.”

Shub is going to Israel with David; he’s been chosen to coach the American gymnastics team in the Maccabiah Games.

The coach won’t predict whether David might be a future Olympian, but he thinks his future is bright.

“I think David has a future in gymnastics,” Shub said. “He’s very close to making the junior national team. If he works hard, he will make it.”

One potential obstacle is the fact that the 5-feet-8-inch, 160-pound David is still growing.

“When gymnasts grow up, they sometimes lose technique,” Andy Frankl explained. “When you grow up and do gymnastics moves, your body knows your hand is 30 centimeters from your shoulder. When you grow, all of a sudden, it’s 33 centimeters away. So you have to relearn everything.”

That shouldn’t be hard for a kid who likes a challenge.

“Let me put it this way,” his dad said. “David will not allow us to go on vacation anymore. He is really challenged by gymnastics.”

David, Jessica, and parents Dawn and Andy are members of Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes.

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