Brahm Faber celebrated his 81st birthday by making his first trip to Israel – and earning a gold medal in tennis at the Maccabiah Games.
“They told me it was the first Canadian gold medal in tennis in masters competition [age 35 and over] in the history of the games,” said Faber upon his return to Montreal.
Faber beat an Israeli opponent in the finals match in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 on July 28, one day before his 81st birthday.
But it was no walkover.
The two octogenerians battled it out for 2-1/2 hours on a Tel Aviv court in 37 humid degrees and under intense sun.
The play was tighter than the score would suggest, with each man holding serve.
“He didn’t even sweat. He was used to the heat, but I went through three T-shirts,” said Faber.
Faber was undefeated in the five matches he played in the 80-and-over division, earlier beating an American, an Australian, a South African and another Israeli in the semifinals.
Faber is ranked No. 1 in Quebec and No. 2 in Canada, behind Lorne Main, in his age group.
Faber was urged to compete in the Maccabiah by Irwin Tobias, chair of Tennis Canada’s national seniors tennis committee, who is also involved with Maccabi Canada.
Faber was thrilled by the experience.
“There were 9,000 athletes from 75 countries there, all sharing one homeland. It’s the third-largest sports event in the world after the Olympics and the World Cup. There were 30,000 people in the stadium for the opening ceremonies in Jerusalem,” he said.
“I loved everything about the country. It blew my mind.”
His schedule did not allow him to see much of the country, but he did a brief tour of Jerusalem, visiting Yad Vashem and the Western Wall.
The contrast between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv struck him the most.
Faber vows to return on his own in the near future and see more of Israel.
He has more time now, having retired this year after a long career in the men’s clothing business, including 25 years as a vice-president at the retailer Moore’s.
Faber started playing tennis competitively at around age 40. He’s a longtime member of the Mount Royal Tennis Club and plays an average of four times a week – year-round – mostly singles.
That’s enough to keep him fit, along with some cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter.
Otherwise, he sums up his fitness regimen as “eating well and trying to stay healthy.
“I’ve had injuries, but I’m all right now,” he said.
Faber’s next big tournament is the International Tennis Federation’s Super Seniors World Championships in Austria next month. He’s one of four players selected by Tennis Canada for the over-80 team.