Jim Berk has done pretty darn well in Michigan Senior Olympics swimming competitions.
He’s swam in 15 races and won 15 medals. The cache includes 12 gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze medal in breaststroke events and the 100-yard individual medley, which consists of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle legs.
Berk’s latest haul was four gold medals in four races in August at Oakland University.
Swimming in the men’s 60-64 age division, the 63-year-old West Bloomfield resident won the 50 breaststroke (:37.89), 100 breaststroke (1:25.27) and 200 breaststroke (3:09.78) and the 100 IM (1:26.18).
His time in the 200 breaststroke was faster than his winning time in the 2016 Michigan Senior Olympics (3:10.61) and beat the winning time in the 50-54 age division this year (3:11.06).
Berk swam in the 50-54 age division in 2008. He returned to the Michigan Senior Olympics in 2014 and has swam in the 60-64 age division since then.
Winning all those medals is great, Berk said, but it isn’t the only reason why he spends so much time in the pool.
“I swim for the pure joy of it, not only to win medals,” he said. “I also like to test my limits. That’s who I am.”
Swimming also is therapeutic.
“I can have a headache, go swimming, and when I come out of the water, I’m a new person,” Berk said.
Earlier in the summer, Berk competed in the 16th National Senior Games in Birmingham, Ala., after qualifying at the 2016 Michigan Senior Olympics.
He took eighth place in the 200 breaststroke (3:09.48) and ninth place in the 100 breaststroke (1:24.57) in Alabama. The eighth-place finish earned him a ribbon and a spot on the podium for a top-eight placing.
Two years earlier at the 2015 National Senior Games in Minneapolis, Minn., Berk won a silver medal for a second-place finish in the 100 breaststroke (1:22.02) and he placed sixth in the 50 breaststroke (:37.21).
At 5-foot-4, Berk is shorter than many if not all of his swimming competitors. That comes into play more at the national than state level.
Berk said longer races are his forte.
“That’s because longer races require stamina,” he said. “Starts and turns are more important in shorter races, and my height puts me at a disadvantage there.”
Berk hopes to qualify for the 2019 National Senior Games in Albuquerque, N.M., at the 2018 Michigan Senior Olympics.
The National Senior Games — sometimes called the National Senior Olympics — is a 19-sport, biennial competition for men and women age 50 and older.
A familiar face and voice to Detroit sports fans, Berk is a sports broadcaster who began his career in 1975. He hasn’t put down the microphone. He still hosts a cable television show that focuses on the Detroit Tigers.
He’s worked for every local TV station except Channel 7, done morning drive-time sports broadcasts on WWJ Newsradio 950 and called play-by-play for University of Detroit basketball games on the radio.
Berk transitioned to a new career 17 years ago. He’s a personal trainer and exercise teacher, doing much of his work in retirement homes.
Maccabi And Softball
Here are a couple of notes to wrap up previous sports column items:
- Detroit had eight four-year participants in this summer’s JCC Maccabi Games. They were Caitlyn Finerty, A.J. Gilbert, Adam Gordon, Benny Kirshner, Lily Kollin, Sloan Lemberg, Michael Umaniskiy and Evan Vine.
- Here are the teams and managers in the InterCongregational Men’s Club fall softball league: Jeters (Victor Uzansky), Bad News Jews (Steve Achtman), Homeruntaschens (Ben Watson), Kosher Ribs (Matt Bassin), Sandlot (Elon Friendman) and Marble Rye (Richard Jacobs).
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