2022 Australian Masters Games table tennis athlete 84yo Gordon Lee reprises his passion in Perth
Posted On April 22, 2022
After World War II, Gordon Lee’s dad built a ping pong table from a sheet of three-ply wood and a pair of trestles on the family’s back verandah.
“He came up with a couple of bats covered with cork and sandpaper in those days, and my mates had come around and we would go at it on the verandah,” Mr Lee said.
That was when Mr Lee was a child.
Now, at 84, he was not only still playing ping pong but preparing his paddles for the Australian Masters Games in Perth next week.
Strategy includes life experience
Mr Lee trains with a robot, cycles, and swims to maintain his fitness, but said there was more to winning medals than staying in shape.
“And it’s just, I think, life experience, probably.”
Mr Lee said he found his niche in the game of ping pong after learning his light physique wasn’t suited to Aussie Rules football.
“I could practice, it was cheap,” he said.
He played competitively around Fremantle, sometimes against sailors who came in to port.
Mr Lee’s dad would take him to the local tables to play, even in the middle of the night, if he learned that a skilled competitor had arrived in town.
Having honed his skills locally, Mr Lee progressed to the rank of ninth in Australia by the time he was 18.
But at around age 20, he drifted away from the sport after he got married and started a new job.
It wasn’t until he was 65 that he returned to the game he excelled in as a young man.
Although the game had gotten faster and equipment technology had evolved, he started practising with a coach until he was competition ready.
Tournaments take him all over the world
Mr Lee has since represented Australia at tournaments in Japan, Germany and England.
He expected strong competition at this weekend’s Masters Games.
“There’s a good bloke coming here from New South Wales,” he said.
“He’s in his early 70s and he’s a very good player in his own age group.”
Mr Lee said if he was going to win a medal, he would have to take on players at that high standard.
For anyone taking up the game later in life, he suggested standing closer to the table and learning to hit the ball off the bounce.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Mr Lee.
Mr Lee will play in the over 70s category, which runs from April 27-30.