PHILLIP ERENBERG, MD
Gymnastics - 2011
As unassuming and understated as a sports hero could be, Philip Erenberg was one of America’s heroes at the 1932 Summer Olympics – winning the silver medal for gymnastics in his specialty, Indian Clubs.
Born in the Ukraine, Erenberg immigrated to the United States in 1912 and to Los Angeles in 1923, where he attended Roosevelt High School and participated in both sports and as a sportswriter for the school newspaper.
Erenberg would make his first foray into gymnastics at age 16, sampling different specialties before settling in as an Indian Club swinger. He quickly established himself in the unique sport, representing the Los Angeles Athletic Club in meets en route to winning the 1932 National AAU Championship.
Erenberg, who was studying to be a physician – first at UCLA, then at UC Irvine – continued to compete in the event, earning an invitation for a tryout with the United States Olympic team. Successful in that venture, Erenberg went on to capture the silver medal in the subjectively-judged Indian Club event during the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
The ever-modest Erenberg would later jokingly refer to his Olympic experience as his “swan song” in athletic competition, next turning his entire focus toward his education. Erenberg graduated with his doctorate in 1934 and opened a private practice – initially as an obstetrician, but eventually as a general practitioner – that would keep him busy for more than 50 years. As a doctor, Erenberg was able to further extend his selfless approach to life, striving to always provide for his less fortunate patients in need of medical care.
Erenberg’s 1987 interview with George Hodak, as part of “An Olympian’s Oral History,” reveals a humble, forthright man who was far more fascinated with life and people than athletic fame and fortune.
Dr. Erenberg passed away on February 2, 1992, just shy of his 83rd birthday.