Sebastian di Francesco, defeat but smiling
Photo By: David del Vecchio
Defeat in the bronze medal match in Men’s Singles Class 1, by the very narrowest of margins for the host nation’s Sebastian di Francesco at the Mike Dempsey Memorial Tournament in San Diego, on Friday 30th November 2012, but there was a smile on his face.
Simply win or lose, the most important factor for the 59 year old from Santa Cruz in California, the same state as San Diego, was the sport of table tennis; he was beaten by his compatriot, Michael Godfrey, in a full distance five games duel (11-7, 11-5, 7-11, 7-11, 11-9). He was so near yet so far away from success.
Beaten but Sebastian di Francesco is never beaten; he is a man of character, a war veteran.
Injured in Cambodia
He is a veteran of the Vietnam War, a conflict centred on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from November 1955 to the fall of Saigon in April 1975.
“I was injured in Cambodia in 1973, I was in a jeep that was hit by a land mine, two of my colleagues were killed”, reflected Sebastian di Francesco. “I was a member of the Special Forces, the Green Berets.”
He was only 20 years old at the time.
Admitted to Hospital in Massachusetts
“I was admitted to the Veteran Administration Hospital in West Rock Ferry, Massachusetts”, continued Sebastian di Francesco, who had suffered severe spinal injuries as a result of the accident; ever since he has been consigned to a wheelchair.
“I spent two and a half years in hospital and it was there I first started to play table tennis”, he continued. “Table tennis was recommended to me by the Recreational Therapist.”
Determined as a member of the illustrious Green Berets; that determination was transferred to succeeding in the sport of table tennis and he succeeded.
“In 1983 I played in my first international tournament”, continued Sebastian di Francesco, who quickly made his mark; his character shining through.
“I played in five consecutive Paralympic Games beginning in 1984”, he added. “I won a total of four silver and two bronze medals.”
Wounded Warrior Programme
Sebastian di Francesco is a member of the Wounded Warrior Programme in the United States; the programme is administered by the five services branches – Air Force, Army, Marines, Coast Guard and Navy.
It was initiated in the 1980s by servicemen returning from the Gulf War.
Introduction for Table Tennis
Many sports are in the programme but at the moment not table tennis and that is the next quest; certainly there is a willingness from all parties for table tennis to be included.
The efforts of Sebastian di Francesco will undoubtedly help the goal being realised; he will make every effort for the sport’s inclusion.
A disappointment in his bronze medal contest in the Men’s Singles Class 1 and also disappointment in the Men’s Team Class 1-2 event where with compatriot, James Segrest, defeats were experienced in the opening duels.
The pair suffered a three-one reverse at the hands of Korea’s Song Byung Jun and Na Jong Tae, before experiencing a three-nil defeat in opposition to Argentina’s Carlos Duarte and Mexico’s Gabriel Zaldivar.
Defeat but the fact he is playing in the Mike Dempsey Memorial Tournament is a feat in itself.
In 2006 he underwent a liver transplant; he moved to the top of the list for the transplant. It is a situation where the patient is given 30 days for a suitable organ to be found, in the case of Sebastian di Francesco he received the medal with one hour to go!
There will be no medals for Sebastian di Francesco in San Diego but if anyone deserves a medal, he merits gold; a true champion, a very brave man, a true American hero.
Download Complete Results of Singles Events
Mike Dempsey Memorial Tournament: Complete Results of Singles Events
Local Website and Streaming
Local Website and Streaming: Mike Dempsey Memorial Tournament