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Lou BillinkoffBy HARVEY ROSEN

When the phone rang at my humble abode in mid-June and the call-display read: “Dr. Errol Billinkoff,” I don’t know about you, but when I receive a phone call from a prominent medical doctor whom I have never before seen as a patient, I immediately suspect that it must be some kind of a referral from my regular GP at the Manitoba Clinic.


In addition, the fact that the gentleman is very popular in the Jewish community and has, according to his site on the internet, a clinic that specializes in vasectomies, I suddenly felt - as they describe in pro hockey these days - “a lower body injury.
I then contemplated the probability that with this phone call plus my rugged good looks I had finally met my Waterloo and that father time had finally arrived in spades.     
It was following his introduction and our subsequent conversation that I immediately began to feel immense relief. You see, many of the articles that I have written in the past usually originate from phone calls by parents or grandparents who want to “shepp nachas” regarding their own children or grandchildren.

In this instance, however, Dr. Errol Billinkoff now 65, also felt immense pride and wanted to shepp nachas, and deservedly so, that his 93-year-old father Louis (Lou) Billinkoff, had at this stage of his life, and perhaps out of necessity, become a serious track runner.
“He’s a phenom! He was never athletic in his life and at 88 years of age my dad had experienced a mild heart attack. The result was a stent (being inserted in an operational procedure).
“He started walking and worked up to running. He is inspirational! He’s a medical marvel! He takes no meds. He has all his faculties and he is independent,” explained the proud doctor.”
That being the case, it was surely time for me to reach his parents, Ruth and Lou, who have been married 65 years now and also have another married son, Lorne Billinkoff, who is a retired teacher.
When the phone rang at their Elm Street residence, the gentleman who answered at the other end sounded full of pep and came across as a much younger man then he is. I introduced myself as a sportswriter at The Jewish Post & News and inquired if he had ever heard of my column that primarily features Jewish sports personalities.
“Of course,” he said, as if I had asked a naresh question which, of course, I am certainly capable of doing from time to time.
I assured him that I had already spoken about his unusual feat of the past several years to his son, the doctor, and that he had already filled me in somewhat regarding his lofty life changes.   
“I think it’s a lot of fun.,” Lou said. “I’ve never had so much publicity in my life. It’s my 15 minutes of fame,” he laughed, alluding to a term coined by artist Andy Warhol commonly used now when an individual enjoys a very brief period of celebrity or notoriety.
As for any kind of role (health-wise) his son Errol plays in his endeavours, Lou explained that his son is now his manager and that health hasn’t been an issue since the surgery.
“My health hasn’t been an issue at all since the operation. I run three times a week at the track on Taylor Ave. I began by walking on the track at the Re-fit Centre, a medical fitness facility, and soon moved onto running.
“I was never interested in sports or working out, but running made me feel better than I’ve felt in years. I was agile as a kid. When I was an engineer (electrical), I used to love jumping up stairs two at a time when I was in buildings, but that’s about it” said the glib gentleman, who began his profession with Winnipeg Hydro in 1945 and served there 40 years.”
I asked Lou what role his wife Ruth might play in helping him to maintain good health and he didn’t hesitate to give credit where credit is due. “I am one of the luckiest people in the word, he said sincerely. “I have good health. I have a wife who looks after me very well and watches my diet. I have family that makes me happy. I have a good life.
“Luck is the answer too, but in terms of my running ability, it comes down to genes and luck too,” he assured me.  
I also had the gratifying opportunity to talk with Ruth and, of course, she was almost modest to a fault as to her valuable input. As luck would have it, for me at least, she shared with me that she once knew my late mother Sarah, who passed away over 20 years ago, quite well.
It turned out that Ruth conducted the choral group in the Jewish Women’s Musical Club and Zora Weidman ran the drama department. Mom, who was more than fluent in speaking Yiddish, played a role in a play and my dad Morris helped to build the back-stage sets. Mom was as proud of her part as if she were starring on Broadway. Small world, isn’t it?
Excuse me, I digressed. But to me it was like finding a pearl in an oyster.
As for the real star of this piece, Lou’s latest competition took place at the University of Manitoba’s track and field on the last week-end in June. If you want to watch him run - I did - you’ll locate the tape on CBC-TV on your computer. I mean, he can really move!
His event is called the “Provincial Masters Track-and-Field Championship.”
Billinkoff ran the 100 metres in 28.29 seconds - shaving more than a second off his time last year.  
The competitors who beat Lou at the Manitoba Age Class Championships were nearly half his age. First place went to a 58-year-old man who ran the distance in 13.68 seconds, while in second was a 50-year-old at 14.81. Billinkoff placed third.
My subject plans to give it another shot at age 95. Don’t bet against him. He’s anything but a slacker.
    
POST PATTER: The reason why the Billinkoff name seemed familiar to me was because I sat with brother Lorne and wife Marilyn, a lawyer, at the Rady Centre sports dinner in 2008 when their son Mitch Billinkoff, a superb ping-pong player, was declared the “Jewish Athlete of the Year.”

In 2010 the then second year Arts student at the University of Winnipeg was named “Manitoba’s Table Tennis Player of the Year.”
      
The writer, a Jewish Winnipegger, is a former school teacher, and covers football and hockey for Canadian Press and Broadcast News.

Keep in touch with Sporting Touch. Send news about Jewish sports to Harvey Rosen, 360 Scotia Street, Winnipeg, Man., R2V 1W7, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

   

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