Olympic Dreams: Greenberg to Compete in Maccabiah in Israel

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]

At some point in our lives, most of us have had a BIG dream – to be elected president of the United States, to win an Academy Award, to receive a Pulitzer Prize, to ride the winning horse in the Kentucky Derby. But how many of us ever had a realistic chance to make those dreams come true?

For 15-year-old Peyton Greenberg, a sophomore in the High School University program at Manual High School, that dream is to become an Olympic swimmer and to bring home at least one gold medal. Unlike most of us, Greenberg is working very hard and doing everything she can to turn that goal into reality. In fact, she is ranked among the top 10 female swimmers in her age group in the United States.

She swims on two swim teams – Manual High School and the Lakeside Seahawks, practices five hours a day, six days a week, and competes regularly against some of the country’s best swimmers. This summer, she will be competing in the Maccabiah in Israel, and since the Maccabiah is associated with the Olympics, she knows Olympic scouts will be in the stands. She is one of only 12 girls in the U.S., age 18 and under, selected to participate.

Greenberg’s typical day starts with a 4:20 a.m. wake-up call. By 5, she’s in the pool for an hour and a half workout before school. From 3:30-5:30 p.m., she’s back in the pool, then, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, “dry lands” (weights, running, pull-ups, etc.) until 7. On Saturday mornings, she’s back in the pool. Her coaches, Mike DeBoor and Jamie Doctor, are there for her the entire time.

Her only day off is Sunday, but that time is filled with Sunday School, including confirmation class, homework and BBYO. Social activities also keep her busy every Saturday night.

Greenberg’s hard work is paying off. The Manual swim team captured the state championships last year. Last summer, she competed in Austin, TX, and won the Texas Junior Nationals in the 18 and under category in the 200 breast stroke; and last month, she competed in Knoxville, TN, and took sixth place in the USA Junior Nationals. In both meets, she was competing against the best swimmers in the country, some of whom are already 18 years old.

Her victory at last summer’s Texas Junior Nationals means she got her Olympic trial cut, which means she can compete at Olympic trials and “if I do well enough, I’ll get to compete at the Olympics,” she said.

This week, she headed back to Austin for a USA Sports Grand Prix meet, during which she was swimming against Olympians including Missy Franklin. Franklin won several medals in this summer’s Olympics. Greenberg explained meets like this one help Olympians stay in shape between the big meets.

“I’ve been to one Grand Prix before,” she said, “and the highlight of the meet for me was I accidentally touched Michael Phelps’ foot in the warm down lane” while they were swimming. This past meet in Austin, she got her 2013 World Championship trial time, which means she will swim with all the Olympians again this June at the U.S. World Meet.

She’s also part of a select team from Kentucky that competes in regional meets.

Greenberg has not always been a competitive swimmer, and no one else in her family swims. In fact when she was a very young child, she said, “I hung around Standard Country Club a lot, but I was afraid and wouldn’t get in the pool,” even though all her friends were in the water having fun and asking her to join them.

To help her overcome her fear, her parents signed her up for the swim team, and soon she found that she enjoys it. She swam for Standard for a while, and has been swimming for Lakeside for five years now.

Her best stroke is the breast stroke, and she enjoys sharing her love of swimming with others. She even finds time to volunteer to teach children to swim. “I love little kids,” she said, “and I help at little kids’ swim meets at Lakeside and at Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center.”

Greenberg is excited about the Maccabiah, which is a three-week program that begins July 10. The first week, she will travel around Israel with the Israel Connect program, “but I still have to swim in the morning,” she said. The opening ceremonies for the competition will be on July 17 and the closing ceremonies will be July 30.

“The Maccabiah is the third largest sporting event in the world,” she explained. Over 9,000 athletes from 30 countries are expected to compete.

“I’ve never been out of the country before,” Greenberg said. “For a first trip, this is great because it’s Israel and I’ve always wanted to go. My brothers have both gone recently and they’re always gloating about how amazing it is. Now, it’s my turn to go and I’m also really excited to meet people from around the country and around the world.”

“I’m honored to get to represent Louisville, the United States and the Jewish community. It’s a big deal,” she added. She’s comfortable with her chances, too. “My coach told me I should go for it, so I plan to win my best events,” she said.

It’s also important that she make the trip this summer, she noted, “because a lot of my best friends will be in Israel this summer from Camp Livingston and I’ll get to see them.” Greenberg spent two summers at Camp Livingston, but her summer swimming schedule doesn’t leave time for camp.

There is one big stumbling block Greenberg faces. She has to raise $8,000 to be able to make the trip. She contacted the Jewish Federation of Louisville and received some scholarship help, but she has more to do.

To accomplish this goal, she has set up a website, https://friendraising.towercare.com/Markslist/campaign/viewDetails.do?campaignId=12428. Visit it today to learn more about Greenberg and to help her reach her financial goal so she can compete in the Maccabiah.

“I’m really honored to have my family and some teams supporting me,” she said, “and I can’t wait to go to Maccabiah and win for Louisville and the Jewish community that is supporting me.”

Before she got involved in swimming, Greenberg took ballet. She danced in the Louisville Ballet’s Nutcracker for three years and in the company’s production of Sleeping Beauty. She also has an interest in acting and performed in CenterStage’s production of The Parade.

Greenberg and her family are members of The Temple.

Her family includes her parents, Rick and Debbie Greenberg; her brothers, Aaron Kemper and Ryan Greenberg, her sister and brother-in-law, Lexie and Chris Cunningham; and her grandmother, Judy Greenberg.

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