During the weekly video call with my mom this morning, she appeared to be happier than usual. She told me that new ping-pong tables were installed in the park where she usually does her morning exercises, and she played for an hour. A bystander who was watching said that she should enroll in their community contest and she would definitely be among the top 3. My mom said that as a 70-year-old, she had no interest in playing in matches, which led to the comment that she looked much younger than her age.
Yes, my mom plays table tennis very well, even though she only played once in a long while. It has always been a very popular sport in China and she took much interest in it since childhood. When she was a kid, she often piled up books (as a net) in the middle of the big dining table and played with her uncle. Then she started to play with classmates in school. She was naturally talented and became very good with much practice.
She was trained sporadically by a coach in high school, and she represented her class/school in contests and did very well. She believed her biggest advantage was that she never felt nervous in big matches. The more people watching, the better she played.
Shortly after my mom got into college, she enrolled in a tournament. The college team recruited her after watching her play in only one match. She received very formal and rigorous training there, and expected to represent the college, and then perhaps the city or province in future tournaments.
Then the Cultural Revolution began. As with everything else, the team was disbanded. My mom felt very sad, since she had only been trained on forehand by then, with the plan of backhand and spin to follow. Now she could never finish the whole skill set, and she wouldn’t have any chance to play in any tournaments down the road.
She still feels regret today, that her dream of being a first-class table-tennis player was not fulfilled. On the other hand, this is a sport that she still loves after so many years. Apparently she still plays much better than most people, despite her ‘weak’ backhand and spin. I am so glad that she has a chance to play everyday now. Who knows, she might even be a champion someday!