by Neha Aggarwal
In 2014, the average life expectancy of an American was calculated at 78.7 years, according to a report on mortality by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, USA. The reason behind this was a reduction in deaths from such major illnesses as heart disease, cancer and stroke. The reduction was primarily due to better healthcare and behavioural changes in Americans.
However, for Si Wasserman, the real reason for his longevity is the sport he loves the most. “Table tennis is largely responsible for my longevity. Both the brain and the body are involved and those are the two essential elements in life. I enjoy playing, the night before my practice session, I cannot stop thinking about it, and when I finally play it’s one of the best feelings in life!”
“Table tennis is responsible for my health and my well being”- Si Wasserman
Wasserman was introduced to the sport back in 1934 through a friend who invited him to play. The excited 12-year old Wasserman readily agreed but did not really do well. “I could not hit a single ball and felt embarrassed, thus I took up the challenge. I wanted to work hard and get better at the sport, that’s how I started training.”
He continued, “In 1949, when I was 27, I started playing tournaments. I joined the California Table Tennis Center where I got a formal training for the sport. I played my first US Open in 1950.”
In 1952, he became the owner of the club, which produced many leading players in the 1950s including himself. He led the US national team at the 1959 World Championships and served on the board of the USA Table Tennis Association. “From 1964 till 1994 I did not play table tennis until a fellow player asked me to serve on the board of the California Hall of Fame. That’s when I got back to the game and haven’t stopped ever since.”
Wasserman now trains three days a week, for two hours every session. Earlier this year, the 94-year old married his long time love and table tennis player Patty Martinez. They recently moved to a new house which is big enough to accommodate a table tennis table. The couple purchased a new one at the US Open and are excited to practise together in the new house.
“We are also planning to purchase a robot. I want to improve my game as I have my eyes set on the 2018 World Veteran Table Tennis Championships.”- Si Wasserman.
The tournament will be held in Las Vegas and will have the 95 and above age category where Wasserman is aiming to win the title. “My backhand drive is my best shot. Forehand is good too, but I m still working on it, its coming along. I have been working on it my entire life (laughs). My defensive game is fairly good but now I want my offensive game to get stronger.”
Wasserman knows that he must keep his body agile and strong enough to move around the table. Keeping that in mind, he would take his dog to walk everyday, which meant walking one to two miles. “That’s how I kept my legs strong to keep me fit to play table tennis. I did that for the last five years until she passed away.”
He also follows a strict diet to stay healthy. “I avoid red meat. I eat chicken, turkey for protein and all kinds of dairy products.”
When asked what motivates him to keep playing, Wasserman replied with an enthusiasm of a 14-year old child,” I get to meet a lot of people and play a lot of different tournaments. It’s a great social setting. I love travelling to different tournaments and see new cities. I have been all over the US and I enjoy that thrill.” However, the most important reason he explains is:
“The thrill of the competition, anticipation of being able to practise and at the same time working on your health and well being is something that I enjoy the most about the sport of table tennis”
When requested for a picture, he stepped into the court with his wife Patty and the couple hit some balls with passion like that of a professional. Wasserman’s backhand is strong indeed, he swiftly moved around the court to get each ball back on the table.
Inducted in the Hall of Fame of USA Table Tennis, Si Wasserman is a legend. He is not only an iconic figure for USA Table Tennis but also a true ambassador of the sport; his life is a testimony to the fact that table tennis can be played and enjoyed by people of all ages.
Moreover, with the digital age and technology overpowering everyone, Wasserman’s life exemplifies the benefits of making sport a part of one’s lifestyle.
Watch him play and you will understand that magic, at 94, Wasserman is as young as the freshly blossomed spring flower!