Jessica Eig returned from the 2019 Pan Am Maccabi Games last month with the gold. Five of them precisely.
And one silver medal.
The 16-year-old Clarksburg native, known as J.J., competed as part of the U.S. open gymnastics team in Mexico City. She won gold medals in individual all around, floor, bars and vault competitions. She won team gold as well, and a silver medal for her performance on the beam.
“I had a really great time competing,” she said in a phone interview, “It was a really nice feeling. You don’t really get to do that every day, and doing it another country made it more fun.”
While in Mexico, she climbed the Pyramid of the Sun, about an hour north of Mexico City.
“I love going to explore the pyramids,” she said. “They don’t have many things like that in America and it was cool to go to the top.”
She had another experience her friends back home can’t boast about: The entire Maccabi stadium broke into “Happy Birthday” when she turned 16 on July 11. That was also the day she won four of her medals.
“I got to celebrate with a new group of people,” she said. “And winning was a pretty cool way to celebrate.”
This was her second Maccabi Games. In 2017, she competed in Israel. As a level 10 gymnast, the highest rank for Junior Olympians, J.J. trains 25 hours a week, usually for 4 ½ hours a day. She even leaves school early to ensure she has enough time to train. Between school, practice and homework, J.J. often isn’t in bed until after midnight.
She’s been in gymnastics since she was 3 or 4, after her ballet teacher suggested she try a different class so she could burn off more energy. She said she wants to go to an Ivy League school, or “Rutgers or Temple University,” with a Division 1 scholarship.
She’s not sure what she wants do after that ― it won’t be athletics — but if given the opportunity, she’d love to go back to Israel.
“I’m just focused on the thing I’m doing at the moment and try not to think too far in the future,” she said. “I just take it one day at a time.”