After World War II, Gordon Lee’s father built a table tennis table from a three-ply sheet of wood and a pair of trestles on the family’s back porch.
“It came with a few bats covered in cork and sandpaper at the time, and my friends had come and we were going on the porch,” Mr Lee said.
It was when Mr. Lee was a child.
Now, at 84, not only was he still playing table tennis, but he was preparing his paddles for the Australian Masters Games in Perth next week.
Strategy includes life experience
Mr Lee trains with a robot, rides a bike and swims to maintain his fitness, but said there was more to winning medals than staying fit.
“And that’s just, I think, life experience, probably.”
Mr Lee said he found his footing in the game of ping pong after learning his lightweight physique was not suited to Australian rules football.
“I could train, it was cheap,” he said.
He played competitively around Fremantle, sometimes against sailors arriving in port.
Mr. Lee’s father would take him to local tables to gamble, even in the middle of the night, if he heard that a qualified competitor had arrived in town.
After honing his skills locally, Mr Lee progressed to ninth in Australia at the age of 18.
But around the age of 20, he walked away from the sport after getting married and starting a new job.
It wasn’t until the age of 65 that he returned to the game he excelled at as a young man.
Although the game got faster and equipment technology evolved, he began training with a trainer until he was ready for competition.
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 the Masters Games this weekend.
“There’s a good guy coming here from New South Wales,” he said.
“He’s over 70 and he’s a very good player in his age group.”
Mr. Lee said if he wanted to win a medal, he would have to face players of that high level.
For anyone starting the game later in life, he suggested getting closer to the table and learning how to hit the ball on the rebound.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Mr. Lee said.
Mr Lee will play in the over-70 category, which runs from April 27-30.