08 Sep 2021

This is our last article on the stories of the World Parkinson’s Table Tennis Championships participants ahead of the tournament’s start on Thursday 9th September. In part three, we feature two inspirational players who have turned their battle with Parkinson’s disease into positive reinforcement for others.

by Jia Li, ITTF Foundation Communication Coordinator.

Margie Alley

Margie Alley is a social worker for children with learning disabilities. She is also the winner of the 2019 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Women’s Singles in New York, and an advocate of sports for people with Parkinson’s.

“I created a 15-minute documentary called Gotta Keep Moving which shared my Parkinson’s story. The goal is to help newly diagnosed people with Parkinson’s to understand the importance of exercise and community play in slowing down the progression of the disease.”

The documentary was well received and has motivated many to keep moving to stay healthy.

“The documentary is convincing because it is my personal journey. Table tennis has helped restore some of what the disease has tried to take away by providing physical, social and psychological benefits much similar to those that I experienced before my diagnosis.”

Alley is glad that she has found table tennis. The fond memories of playing the sport with her father in her teens led her to one of the largest table tennis centres in the United States.

“On my first visit, I learnt that they had a special weekly programme for people with Parkinson’s called Ping Pong Parkinson (3P). I went to the first session and found it to be a lot of fun with the added benefit of being therapeutic for my mind and body. I also found the community of people at 3P to be very supportive.”

Table tennis plays a central role in Alley’s life now. She has a new community of friends from the table tennis club and 3P.

Sunil Raghavan

Together with the help of his friends, Singapore based IT professional and table tennis enthusiast Sunil Raghavan founded the non-profit Table Tennis For Good Limited in 2020. Their goal is to use table tennis as a medium to promote brain and general health, rehabilitation and harmony while having fun playing.

“Table Tennis For Good is the result of my appreciation for table tennis. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2015 while my six-and-a-half-year-old son suffers from a rare genetic condition called  Cardiofaciocutaneous (CFC) syndrome. Table tennis has helped both of us to show remarkable improvement in our conditions.”

Raghavan’s diagnosis has completely changed his outlook towards the journey of life, and his motivation to live became much more meaningful.

“Parkinson’s is one of the conditions that it is critical to have a strong support system. When you have strong support from family, friends, the community, and society, you feel empowered and less disabled. I find joy in giving back more than making something for myself. Table tennis is my passion, and I want to give back what I have learnt in the darkest days of my life.”

A man who loves the sport, Raghavan also participated in the 2019 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships in New York. He was there not only to play but also to gather experience of hosting similar events in Singapore for his fellow Parkinson’s warriors.

“I feel proud when people say that I do not look like someone with Parkinson’s. That is an achievement for me for people to say that, and I give 100 % credit to table tennis for that.”

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