It would be fair to assume that competing at the Olympic trials would be the pinnacle of any swimmer’s career. If you ask former University of Tampa swim star Jeremy Parker, it was a nice warm up for the event he’s training for this July.
“I actually would rank this a little bit higher,” the 23-year-old said from the pool deck of the Bobby Hicks swimming complex in Tampa. “Being able to swim in Israel in the Maccabiah Games I would rank that even higher than the Olympic Trials.”
Parker is just a few short weeks away from competing on the world stage. His swimming partner for the upcoming Maccabiah Games in Israel is a man who has waited a long time for his shot at international competition.
“I never ever thought it’d be possible,” said Dr. David Halpern, Parker’s father.
The two men will swim together in a competition designed for the top Jewish athletes in the world. The Maccabiah Games is the third-largest sporting event in the world which began in 1932. The 2017 edition will be the 20th occurrence of the Games.
It’s an Olympic-style event that brings in athletes from all over the world. The opportunity to swim together with his father is special for Parker.
“It’s a one in a lifetime experience,” he said. “I didn’t think we’d be swimming in a meet together in Israel.”
Halpern, 56, had an opportunity to swim on the world stage in the 1980 Olympics but the United States did not attend the Games in Moscow because of political unrest.
Now, over three decades later, he’ll have his chance.
“I didn’t have that in 1980 and 1984 I was already in medical school and I didn’t want to give that up at that point,” said Halpern. “This is a very special opportunity for me to kind of get my chance to do this.
Halpern has adjusted his life to make this dream come true. A full-time plastic surgeon, he’s because serious training with 5:30 a.m. practice sessions and evening swims as well.
He’s not as fast as his son but getting the chance to be alongside him in the pool makes every stroke more exciting.
“It’s almost impossible to put into words how that will feel being there for me and being there with my son. Just really something special.”
Parker has already gotten a taste of international swimming. He competed against USA greats like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in the Olympic Trials for the Rio Games in 2016.
“He really could be a serious contender for Tokyo in 2020,” said Halpern.
The Maccabiah Games will offer great experiences for both men in a special, intertwining way. Both men say they are most looking forward to the Opening Ceremonies on July 6.
The competition is July 4 – 18. Parker will swim July 9 – 12 and Halpern will swim July 12 – 14.