Rebecca Lewinson of West Windsor, N.J., who will reprsent the U.S. in the Maccabiah Games this summer, has already won almost any swimming title she competed for: at the New Jersey High School State Championship, she won the 100m Breast category three years in a row. She is currently a member of the Princeton University Swim Team, and won two Ivy League Championships in three years. In the 2009 Maccabiah, at the age of 17, she competed in the open age category and won the gold medal in 200m Breast, silver in 400m Medley Relay, and bronze in 100m Breast.
The 6-foot-tall athlete, who will turn 21 next Wednesday, started swimming at the age of 9, which is relatively late for a competitive swimmer. By the age of 15 she was ranked second in the National Age Group Rankings for 200m Breast.
“I love the fairness of the sport: If you work hard, you do well. I also enjoy the opportunity for improvement,” Lewinson said in an interview with The Philadelphia Jewish Voice. “Being a part of a team completely changes the sport. Racing for my high school and college team is probably my favorite part of the sport, and motivates me to be a better swimmer.” However, she said that swimming is “a huge time commitment,” involving practices before and after school:
In high school, I gave up a lot of social time in order to train and compete. It seemed like the end of the world then, but I now realize that swimming’s time commitment taught me a lot about prioritizing and time management, and opened many doors for me. In college, swimming has definitely contributed more to my life than it has made me sacrifice. The friendships I have made and lessons I have learned far outweigh anything I missed out on for swimming.
In the coming Maccabiah, the International Relations student will compete in 200m and 400m (her best race) Individual Medley, 100m and 200m Breast, and 100m and 200m Fly. However, winning medals is not her only goal: “I hope to swim my heart out for my team, but I also expect to meet people that I will be friends with for the rest of my life,” she said.
I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to Israel to compete for my country and have the experience of being surrounded by thousands of Jewish athletes from around the world. Being Jewish has allowed me to connect with people in my community and University. I am actually remaining in Israel after the games to pursue research for my Senior Thesis.
Lewinson is a part of a family of female athletes: Her mother was captain of the Syracuse track team and a professional dancer. Her older sister competed on the varsity track team and swim team at Widener University, and her younger sister dances and is being recruited to compete in college for a crew. Unlike her mother, she is not planning to become a professional in her sport:
Although I would love to compete for the rest of my life, trying to make a living out of swimming is not realistic and would not allow me to pursue my career goals outside of the pool. I will be a senior in college next fall, and I look forward to seeing how far I can push myself during my last year.