Paul Martin. 72

Sooke senior takes on world in table tennis

Paul Martin was among 4,600 competitors taking part in the 18th World Veterans Table Tennis Championships

Kevin Laird

Sooke News Mirror

Paul Martin may be 72, but he’s still ready to take on the world.

Martin, a longtime Sooke resident, was among 4,600 competitors taking part in the 18th World Veterans Table Tennis Championships in Alicante, Spain last month.

The weeklong event takes place every two years and comprises of singles and doubles events in nine age categories. It attracts players from more than 80 countries, who play on 165 competition tables. There were 17,000 matches played.

“It was just overwhelming,” said Martin, describing the tournament as a beehive of activity of noise and heat. “I was really surprised.”

Martin opened the tournament in singles play where he went 1-4 and lost to eventual silver medalist Brian Hill of England. He then partnered with View Royal resident Fred Kong in doubles play and was eliminated.

“The games were really high calibre. I’m a B.C. gold medal competitive winner and I would classify myself just above [novice competitive] in the world. I thought I was a really good player,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say it was humiliating, but it was eye opening on the high level of competition.”

Martin returned to table tennis five years ago after a 40-year hiatus, when he played the sport in England as a youth.

Once he retired from working, he went back to the sport and soon found he was wanting for more competition. He joined both Juan de Fuca Seniors in Colwood and Oak Bay’s Monterey Table Tennis Club.

He met Kong at Monterey who persuaded him to go with him to the world championships.

“[Kong’s] a really good player. I didn’t think I was in his class, but he thought I was improving enough to go with him,” Martin said.

Leading up to the tournament, Martin practiced up to six times a week, often two hours each day. He also received local sponsorship, including a $5,000 boost from Bear Mountain Resort.

But even with all the practice, Martin said there isn’t enough competition here to be able to play competitively at the world level.

Now he has his eye on the next World Veterans Table Tennis Championships in Las Vegas in 2018.

But this time Martin expects to be better prepared. He plans to get a coach, play better players and compete at more national and international events.

“I didn’t do that bad in Spain,” he said. “The competition was just so good.

“We had a great time. It was a dream of mine to go, but when I got there I thought maybe I dreamed too high.”