The Table Tennis Family!
Well, would you believe it? On the very day that she won the England Women's Singles title at the Table Tennis England National Championships, Maria Tsaptsinos shared a table with this correspondent for a grand Gala Dinner! And, not only Maria, but also her rival (at least on the table tennis table) in that final, Tin-Tin Ho, the England Women's No.1.
It was truly an honour to be in such company for an evening of celebration! The occasion? Table Tennis England Centenary Gala Dinner.
It was truly a glittering evening, celebrating 100 years of the Governing Body of table tennis in England. Among the guests there were current players, umpires and officials, administrators, employees of Table Tennis England, members of the governing Board, sponsors, and legends of the sport, like Desmond Douglas, John Hilton, Alan Cooke and Jill Hammersley-Parker. One of the highlights of the evening was the formation of the TTE Centenary Hall of Fame with 10 past and present legends of English table tennis being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Here are just 5 of them.
See if you can work out who they are! If you can't you can find the answers from the report of the event on the Table Tennis England website.
Table 15 was definitely the place to be on Sunday night! Most of the time one only gets to see table tennis players in the context of playing the sport, so to see people dressed in their finery in such an informal setting was something quite different!
Over the course of this glittering evening there were several references to 'the table tennis family', the diverse, inclusive, welcoming, accepting, group of people who make up the sport of table tennis in all its forms across of the whole of the country. And there was a further reminder of the family when a former correspondent to this site brought to my attention a small article from the Times by Matthew Syed who made the closing speech at the Gala Dinner.
I couldn't help but think about our own club, Bath Street Marine TTC, and how like a family it is. And like any family, there are different and at times conflicting views, but when it really matters the 'family' really work together to provide a fabulous environment for a diverse group of people to participate and enjoy an all inclusive sport. Long may it continue that way.
Not everyone could go to the Gala Dinner, but the fact is that through local clubs and associations everyone, and anyone, can enjoy and participate in the sport of table tennis. Sure it was fabulous to be in the company of current top England players, like Maria and Tin-Tin, Paul Drinkhall and Sam Walker, and fabulous to see legends of the sport like Desmond Douglas. But it is just as good to be in the company of the table tennis family at my own table tennis club!
Above, Desmond Douglas is inducted to the Hall of Fame.
Below, celebrating 100 years. A thriving sport with the potential for another 100 years!