August 22, 2019

Local Teen Makes Splash at Maccabi Games

Manning Haskal

Manning Haskal is an experienced swimmer but even he might have a hard time treading water while gripping all his medals from the Pan American Maccabi Games in Mexico City. 

The 15-year-old from Los Angeles won eight gold and three silver at the games, which took place from July 5-15.

The Pan American Maccabi Games are an affiliate of the Maccabiah Games, affectionately nicknamed the “Jewish Olympics,” the worldwide competition that’s officially the third largest sporting event in the world.

During the games, Manning won gold medals for individual events in the 1,500- and 400-meter freestyle, 400 individual medley (IM) and the 200 freestyle, and anchored the U.S. 4×100 relay and the 4×100 medley relay teams, which both finished first. Additionally, he won the 3,000 open-water competition at Lake Tequesquitengo. There, he took home two gold medals: one in the 15-17 age group and the other for placing first across all competing age groups (15-99). He won silver medals in the 200 backstroke and 200 IM, and anchored the U.S. 4×200 relay team.

Manning said one of his biggest influences in the games was a swimmer from Mexico named Manuel. Competing in the open-water event, Manning said Manuel helped him.

For Manning, though, competing in the games was so much more than just about winning medals. “The experience was by far the best part,” he told the Journal. “The swimming was fun and that’s why I went but I think the biggest takeaway was meeting people and making friends from around the world. All the ones from South America spoke really good English. It was really easy to communicate and we all just kind of clicked.” 

Manning said one of his biggest influences in the games was a swimmer from Mexico named Manuel. Competing in the open-water event, Manning said Manuel helped him. “He even stopped and started having me follow him and he started teaching me how to swim in open water,” Manning said. “That was really great.”

Manning lives in Encino and attends Buckley School in Sherman Oaks. His interest in swimming began when he was around 8 years old and joined the Hollywood YMCA. 

“Manning started swimming under an amazing woman named Sharon Goldberg, who everybody calls Goldie,” his mother, Sarah Byrnes, told the Journal. “He loved it and was always happy even when he wasn’t fast or winning. Eventually, all his determination and his true passion for the sport propelled him forward.”

Manning really came into his own after joining his first club, called Gators, when he was 11. It was during this period that he started shaping himself as a long-distance swimmer. “I wasn’t too good at anything else and long distance just kind of clicked with me,” he said. “I didn’t get tired too easily. It just kind of worked out perfectly. I could hold a certain pace for a really long time.” 

Manning is the first swimmer to qualify for state championships in Buckley’s history. He has set several school swimming records and was named MVP of the Prep League Championships. He also swims competitively year-round with the Los Angeles Swim Club.

For the past three years, Manning has been a volunteer coach with the Tri Valley chapter of the Special Olympics swim team. “I really love it,” he said. “I started in seventh grade for my bar mitzvah. I would repeat the sets that the coach would give us and I started going more frequently over the years. I now go once a week and coach for 2 1/2 hours. It is really fun just being able to be on the other side of the pool.”

Manning, whose father is Israeli, said his ultimate goal is to travel to Israel and compete on its national team and maybe even one day, on the Olympic team. 

“Yes, I would totally support him,” Byrnes said. “He’s talked to me about if he wasn’t good enough to swim for the U.S. in the Olympics, would he be good enough to represent Israel in the Olympics as he has dual citizenship.”