An MIT alumnus made a splash in Israel this summer, coaching the U.S. crew team to 10 medals at the 17th Maccabiah Games, an international competition sometimes called the "Jewish Olympics."
Stuart Schmill '86 coached men's crew teams at MIT from 1987-2000 and was director of the crew program from 1990-2000. Schmill now works as an associate director in the Admissions Office and serves as director of the MIT Educational Council, a group of alumni interviewers of prospective undergraduates.
He resumed coaching duties to lead a team of eight Jewish rowers competing in the quadrennial Maccabiah Games, held July 10-21.
The U.S. team, which Schmill coached twice before, in 1997 and 1993, dominated the rowing competition on the Sea of Galilee, earning seven gold medals, two silver and one bronze.
Some 7,700 athletes from more than 50 countries participated in 34 sports throughout the games.
Schmill's team of four men and four women ranged in age from 19 to 39 and included pediatric anesthesiologist (and former U.S. national rowing champion) Jon Werner and Adina Roskies, Ph.D. '04, a philosophy professor at Dartmouth.
The Maccabiah Games is more than a gathering of top-notch athletes. The competitors also tour Israel in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of the country and their heritage.
"Everybody's Jewish, and so you're going to Israel and learning about the country, seeing the country, meeting and connecting with Jews from all over the world. And that cultural element is fairly strong, so it makes a little bit of a different twist," Schmill said.
"Usually at other international competitions you keep to yourself, particularly before and during the competitions. Here there were a lot more open friendships that were being made among the countries," Schmill said. He prepared his rowers to expect a different kind of event. "I made sure they knew that we were going to train hard and compete hard and focus on the competition and winning, but that there were going to be times when the cultural elements were going to take over, so we were going to have to balance that."
Schmill said he enjoyed reconnecting with friends at the games and making a brief return to coaching crew. But he said what was most striking was the spirit of the event.
"You're not really competing against the other people, you're competing with them. And for me that's what I really appreciated about these games."