Local bowler to represent USA in European gamesWritten by Mike Bauman | | email@example.com
Every four years, the world gets to experience sports on its most prestigious stage during the Olympics. Athletes from all across the globe don their country’s colors and compete on an international level. This summer, Toledo native Mark Wexler will wear the red, white and blue and compete on an international stage, though he will also represent something much more than the United States. On July 5-13, Wexler will be one of about 2,000 Jewish athletes from around the world participating in the 13th European Maccabi Games in Vienna, Austria.
What’s more is that this year’s games will mark the first time since 1945 that a collection of Jewish athletes will compete in the tournament on territory formerly occupied by Nazi Germany.
“It’s something I can pass on to my kids because my kids are young enough that they just don’t even understand what the Holocaust was all about,” Wexler said. “It’s all cultural. It’s all history. It’s something I want to learn a little bit more about.”
Like the Olympics, the European Maccabi Games take place every four years. They take place two years after the Maccabi Games, which take place in Israel every four years. At the end of January, Wexler — a Conservative Jew and member of the B’nai Israel Congregation — received a letter from Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel notifying him that he had been selected for this year’s games, as one of just six male bowlers from the United States chosen to compete in Ten-Pin Bowling. But this is not Wexler’s first time bowling on an international level. In 2005, he participated in the Maccabi Games in Tel Aviv.
“You get a chill up and down your spine,” Wexler said of the opening ceremonies at the Israel Maccabiah in 2005, where he said more than 1,000 people from the United States were marching. “We had our two flag bearers. One was Mark Spitz; the other one was Lenny Krayzelburg, both Olympic swimmers. They participated [in the opening ceremonies], and [when] they called off the U.S. and we’re marching after them, you get chills marching with them.”
The 59-year-old Wexler has been bowling since the age of 8 when he was in Cub Scouts and has always had a passion for the sport. He bowled all the way through his time in college, as well as during his 22 years in the military.
Wexler said the individual competitive nature of bowling is what keeps him going.
“I think it’s independence,” Wexler said. “I can take out my frustrations. I look at the pins out there and say, ‘OK. Something’s bothering me tonight, and I want to take revenge on that headpin.’ Basically, I’ve conditioned myself that I thrive on the competition.
“It’s an independent sport, and in order to be successful, you’ve got to do well independently.”
When Wexler travels to Vienna, he will compete for the United States in Ten-Pin Bowling against Austria, Belarus, England, Finland, Poland and Sweden, all of whom have committed to bring athletes to the games.
Instead of traditional bowling where bowlers play three games, however, each country in the Maccabi plays six games apiece in singles, doubles, trios and team competition. If bowlers make the top 16 individually, they bowl stair step style in the Masters competition, where the highest seed takes on the lowest seed and whoever bowls the best two out of three games advances. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded in all of those categories.
Disappointed with his performance in 2005, Wexler said he wants to make the most of his opportunity this summer in Vienna.
“Personally, when I went to Israel I felt like I bowled atrocious,” Wexler said. “In my heart, this is my last opportunity that I will have to compete on that kind of level. I am totally looking forward to redeeming myself.”