By Dave Caspole ’94
When Abby Chernick ’20 had the chance to play international field hockey in the Maccabiah Games last summer, it wasn’t just a triumph of her field hockey skills but rather the culmination of a lifelong journey in which she has overcome many obstacles to compete at such a high level. The 2019 competition drew 2,000 athletes from 29 countries in 22 sports.
“I lost my hearing by meningitis,” says Chernick, who contracted the rare infection at 13 months of age. “When I was younger, the doctors told my parents I would never walk or hear again. It’s a miracle for my parents that I am able to play a college sport and face that challenge and that obstacle through my life.”
Chernick’s hearing did not return to her; growing up, and as a young adult, she wore cochlear implants. She and her parents fought for the return of her physical strength and health. That battle paid off when Chernick was selected for the U.S. team for the European Maccabiah Games, for which she traveled to Budapest, Hungary, last summer to compete. Her team took home a bronze medal.
The Maccabiah Games are commonly described as the “Jewish Olympics.” Chernick says, “My experience was amazing with Maccabiah. I met other Jewish people, experienced my faith, played the sport I love, field hockey, and represented the United States and Westfield State field hockey.”
A Longmeadow native, Chernick says one of the highlights, athletically, was, “Experiencing the different level of competition. I had never played internationally before, so it was a great experience. The Argentinian, Netherlands, and German teams were so good. They worked together, and it was very interesting to see their level and style in comparison to the United States’ style of play.”
Chernick’s coaches and teammates have noticed the impact that playing for the U.S. Maccabiah team had on her game. “Confidence!” says Head Coach Jessica Bergen. “She’s like a whole new player. I know she appreciates our environment and culture, and she brought it into the preseason and never looked back.”