Written by GS
Life Member and 1949 AAA Six Miles Champion passes away in Canada.
Kingston AC & Polytechnic Harriers are saddened to learn of the death in Canada on November 20th, of Valdu Lillakas,,a Life Member and the AAA Six Miles Champion in 1949.
Born in Estonia,Valdu had won his National 3000m Cross Country Championships in 1941,but the Russian occupation of his homeland forced him to flee to Finland where he served in their Armed Forces.Continuing his running training where and when he could,he moved to Germany after WW2 and lived in a Displaced Persons camp for 3 years before marrying and moving to England in May 1947.
Working in agriculture,he ran to and from work regularly and soon came to the attention of Polytechnic Harriers whom he joined in 1948. Put through his training paces from the Club’s Regents Street HQ by Poly’s Doug Wilson & Jimmy Wood,he soon established his credentials by running away from them in Hyde Park,to their mixed disgust and elation at discovering a class athlete!
Valdu became one of the leading runners in the UK in 1949 and 1950,winning frequently,including at the Kinnaird & Sward Trophy Meets, and shining in the Poly’s grenat and cream colours on the extensive inter-club and national athletics circuits. He had PBs of 4.07.4(1500),8.37.0(3k),15.05.8(5k) and 31.59.4(10k) on the track but,arguably, his most significant performance in the UK was winning the AAA title in 1949 in 30.15.0 and there was much talk of his representing England at the 1950 Empire Games. Sadly,he was still classed as a Displaced Person and was deemed not eligible.
In September 1950,he and his wife,Linda,decided to move on to Canada,where he beat several Canadian distance records and,again,was denied formal National recognition and,after qualifying for his new country,he narrowly missed out on international selection,this time for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics;after which he retired from the sport.
Living in Montreal,and then Mississauga,near Toronto,he was very active in Estonian affairs ‘over the pond’,as in the UK is Poly’s Vice President,Tom Ojasoo,who conveyed the sad news of his demise,in Toronto,at the grand age of 87.
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