17 Jan 2023

With the 2023 World Veterans Championships underway in Oman, the event continues to display the incredible passion and dedication our veteran community holds for the sport.

It may only be two days into the event, but with qualifying wrapped up today, the veteran community has already provided us with energising matches across the singles, doubles, and mixed doubles category.

Since it began on Monday morning, the event that returns after five years, has demonstrated its impact on the veteran community, continuing to provide them with the opportunity to actively participate in the sport while connecting with their table tennis peers from all over the world. While this may be a friendly competition, the participants made the most of this opportunity to compete and gave their all to overcome the qualifying stages. Family and friends present have been adding to the players’ cheers and whoops of delight that have echoed up and around the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre.

The event has also served as a platform for heart-warming stories. This year’s participants include two 90-year-olds, Hyun Youngja and Watanabe Yasu. While they are the oldest players in this year’s event, both Japanese have not let their age deter them from competing in all categories and they are eager to play more table tennis in the final two days. Both Hyun and Watanabe who smiled and laughed throughout their matches, are a reminder to us of the simple joys that sports can bring.

Hyun Youngja (left) and Watanabe Yasu, the oldest players in the 2023 World Veterans Championships

Throughout the years of this event, it is common to see veterans return to participate, however, it is exceptional to come across individuals like Alfred Ludwig of Germany and Penti Niukkanen of Finland, who have participated in every World Veterans Championships since it began in 1982

Speaking on his experience on being a ‘veteran’ among the Veterans, Alfred Ludwig shared, “what I enjoy the most is the exchanges with people from all around the world and being able to meet and stay connected with friends throughout the years. I look forward to participating in as many of these events and enjoying the moments with my table tennis family”

Alfred Ludwig (left) and Penti Niukkanen have participated in every World Veterans Championships since it began in 1982

For Penti Niukkanen, he is filled with gratitude for the opportunity to play and thankful that he is healthy and able to continue to play the sport at this level, a sentiment that the veteran community shares.

The Veterans does not only function as a chance for friends to connect but also for couples to strengthen their partnership. Among the participants this year are Donna and David Sakai, both who are 75 years old. With their love for table tennis having played a huge role in their life, the couple are thrilled to be able to play the sport together as a team in the mixed doubles category for the first time. Donna Sakai took the silver medal for the Over 70 doubles category in the 2018 World Veterans Championships.

“These Veterans events have been a blessing and truly been an avenue to continue our love of playing this sport. It is great that we get to have mixed doubles this year which has allowed us to play together.” – David Sakai

David and Donna Sakai in love with table tennis

In addition to being a platform for playing the sport, participants also get the chance to travel to places they have never been to. David Sakai added that, “it is my first time in Oman, and we have been fully occupied with playing so we are really looking forward to exploring the country tomorrow.”

The event takes a break for a day with action resuming with the Singles main and consolation draws on Thursday, 20 January. Watch the event live on our YouTube channel. Schedule and Results are available here.

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