Winnipeg sprinter Lightning Lou dies at 99

Lou Billinkoff started running at 89, and became fastest 95-year-old in country.

Lou Billinkoff started running at 89 years old after suffering a mild heart attack. Courtesy Errol Billinkoff. CBC

CBC News Manitoba March 15, 2023

Lou Billinkoff could have spent the last 10 years of his life winding down. Instead, he spent them at lightning speed.

Billinkoff, nicknamed “Lightning Lou,” died Tuesday after a decade-long sprinting career which he started at age 89.

“He was really inspirational,” said Errol Billinkoff, Lou’s son.

After suffering from a heart attack, Lou entered a cardiac program at Reh-Fit Centre, a medical fitness facility in Winnipeg, to get in some more exercise.

He started off walking on the track at the centre three times a week. But after three years, he decided to try something new: running.

“He just gained everybody’s attention, and they were all wondering, ‘Who is this old guy, you know, sprinting at the track?'” Errol said.

“It was remarkable… I couldn’t believe it because he had not been athletic his whole life. He’d never run or played in any sports. So it came as quite a shock to us.”

It wasn’t long before Errol signed Lou up for his first track meet.

“He thought it was crazy,” Errol said.

But Lou quickly found a love for the sport.

At his first meet in 2015, Lou ran 100 metres in just 29.54 seconds.The following year, at 93, Lou beat his time by 1.25 seconds. He placed third — behind two runners who were nearly half his age.

WATCH | Lou Billinkoff says running in track competitions at 93, ‘nothing special’

Later, he became the fastest 95-year-old in Canada.

“It really invigorated him,” Errol said.

At 96, Lou also ran the 50-metre sprint in just over 15 seconds, beating the 2018 best time in his category by more than a second.

‘Best decade of his life’

Lou will not only be remembered for his speed, but also for his devotion to his family, his curiosity and compassion, and his kindness, Errol said.

“He was just a remarkable guy,” he said. “People were so kind and so inspired by him that it really, I would say, was his best decade of his life.”

Lou was an electrical engineer, and was “sharp as a tack right to the end,” Errol added.

When he wasn’t on the track, he’d spend his time online reading the news or watching running videos to polish up his skills.

“There’s just so many things about him that we are grateful for,” Errol said. “He’ll be missed.”

WATCH | 93-year-old runs the 100m dash at U of M

Source CBC News Manitoba


Also see
Senior, 93, takes third place in race against competitors nearly half his age CBC
95-year-old Winnipeg man hopes to sprint past Canadian record CBC
At 96, Winnipeg’s Lightning Lou sprinting to world-best times CBC

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