Canada’s Irwin Cotler was under the spotlight at last month’s Maccabiah Games, but this time it was sports and not politics that brought attention to the federal justice minister.
Competing in the 17th Maccabiah Games, Cotler didn’t look out of place in his first competitive ping-pong game in 40 years.
But his hopes of winning a medal ended in 27 minutes.
Decked out in a Canadian red and white jersey, Cotler, 65, attracted a large crowd to his match in the masters category, and he won the first game 11-9 against Israeli masters champion Menachem Stein with a powerful cross-slam.
But the experienced Stein, who is 15 years younger than Cotler, quickly recovered, winning three straight games 11-4, 11-7 and 11-5 to take the match.
“You win if you participate, that’s my motto,” Cotler, surrounded by his family, told Canadian Press. “For me, competing here was fulfilling a childhood dream. I was just worried that I didn’t come over here for comic relief.”
After his success early in the match, Cotler hoped he might give Stein a challenge.
“I thought I would surprise him, maybe shake him up, but I really don’t think he was ever worried,” Cotler joked. “Now, I’m hoping to get him to coach me and return in four years for another opportunity.”
Stein said the justice minister was a bit rusty.
“He’s a courageous man,” Stein told CP. “I could tell that he has other things to keep him busy and didn’t come across as if he played too much. Still, his first game was a good challenge.”
Cotler said his trip to the Middle East would also include a meeting with justice ministers from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
Speaking to Ha’aretz, he joked that the media coverage he received during the games, “is a lot more positive than what I get in Canada.”