Carson City table tennis club set to compete in senior games
When Shirley Ling moved to Carson City 13 years ago, one of her first stops was to check out what activities were offered at the senior center.
She found friendship and recreation, playing some pool here and there. But about six years ago, she found her real niche, playing table tennis.
Ling, 79, is one of about a dozen players, between the ages of 67 and 81, who log 15 to 18 hours a week playing ping pong at the Carson City Senior Center.
“This is a wonderful place,” Ling said. “It’s just a wonderful way to meet people and have fun. And you get your exercise in as well.”
While some are new to the sport and come to learn the basics, others are returning to the game they played before families and careers took over their free time.
Terry Lee, 67, played in college and took it back up after retiring.
“It comes back pretty quick,” he said. “We crash into walls, we slam the table, we hit each other with balls. This is no mamby pamby game usually.”
On Saturday, they will travel to Reno to compete in the Reno-Tahoe Senior Winter Games for athletes 50 and over.
Courtney Warner, director of the senior center, said she will be attending the competition to cheer on the players.
“We’re honored to have such active seniors representing us at the Reno-Tahoe Games,” Warner said.
The games offer a variety of events including archery, skiing, skating and pool. The competition is stiff.
“We probably beat as many people as beat us,” Lee said. “Everybody tries to win, but Reno is a big city. They have a lot of good players. Still, we always come home with medals.”
Winning isn’t all that drives them, however.
Barbel Naeslund, 74, took up the sport in 2013 as a way to keep up on tennis in the off season.
“I play because it’s so much fun,” she said. “The side effect is to stay active and healthy.”
But the real draw, they said, is the camaraderie. The players celebrate one another’s birthdays and help each other out when one falls ill.
Every year, Ling creates a calendar featuring photos of the players in action, writing funny captions to go along with the pictures.
“Those captions are killer,” Lee said. “We just take care of each other.”