Like most athletes, Penn senior basketball player Alyssa Baron loves the Olympics.
The tradition. The pageantry. The competition. Everything.
So when she walked around a huge stadium with other athletes from across the world last month, she got chills. She understands, of course, that the opening ceremonies for the Maccabiah Games – an international athletic competition in Israel for Jewish athletes – don’t have the same kind of wide appeal and prestige of the Olympics. But, at least for a little while, she still felt like an Olympian.
“It totally felt like the Olympics,” Baron said. “Playing a part in something really similar is amazing.”
Even better: she brought home a gold medal.
Averaging a very impressive 14.6 points per game, Baron led the USA women’s basketball team to the Maccabiah title, capped by a 72-56 win over Israel in the gold-medal game.
“It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life,” she said. “Traveling to Israel, being in another country and being able to play basketball there – it was amazing.”
Baron had been to Israel once before with her family but enjoyed going back, this time with people her own age and even some fellow Penn students. Among the Penn athletes Baron saw while in Israel were former basketball teammate Jackie Kates, softball players Elysse Gorney and Sydney Turchin, swimmer Alex Alias and soccer goalie Max Kurtzman.
“The more to represent our school, the better,” she said.
But nobody performed better at the Maccabiah Games than Baron, who showcased the same basketball skills that’s made her one of the premier players in the Ivy League. Now, as her senior season approaches, the high-scoring guard hopes winning a gold medal in an international competition (where the rules and style of play are different) can help her win another title back home.
“I need an Ivy League championship ring to go with the gold medal,” she said.
Below you’ll find some photos from Baron’s stay in Israel, which she was kind enough to share.