For someone who hadn’t swum competitively in an Olympic sized swimming pool for two years, Elliot Berman didn’t miss a beat in Mexico City.
Berman, a junior at Hopkins High School, won five gold medals, two silvers, and a bronze in the junior division of the Pan American Maccabi Games, which ran from July 5-15.
“It was kind of a surreal experience, starting with getting all the gear, wearing the flag and all the apparel,” he said. “Then meeting up with the rest of the team and going to Mexico.”
Berman brought home the gold in the 50, 100 & 200-meter butterfly, 400 freestyle relay and 400 medley relay events, silver in the 100 and 50 backstroke events and bronze in the 50 freestyle.
“It was a bigger scale than anything I’ve participated in,” he said. “I haven’t had a lot of Jewish competitions. I wasn’t expecting much competition, but upon arrival, I realized I was swimming with national-level swimmers from across the country.”
In Minnesota, competing in Olympic-distance competition season, or long course, is in the summer. Berman hasn’t swum long course since 2017, but he often missed that season for Minnetonka Swim Club because he was away at Camp Interlachen, the Milwaukee JCC’s overnight camp.
“To feel comfortable, it took two and a half months of training before the summer season to be in a place where I can compete with my peers,” he said. “I’m good underwater and I had to increase my longevity.”
Berman isn’t the first in his family to medal at an international Maccabi Games. His sister, Josie, is a swimmer at Ithaca College and won silver in water polo at the 2017 Maccabiah Games in Israel.
“She’s always been a big inspiration to me,” Berman said of his sister. “She led me to swim. She’s always encouraged me when I’ve doubted myself. It’s just seeing her as a guide that pushes me to do what I can do and accomplish a little more.”
Berman has the Minnesota state meet coming up before flying to Indianapolis for Junior Nationals, but his long term goal is to follow in his sister’s footsteps.
“My overall goal is to try to make Israel 2021,” he said.