After four years, she's top of table

By Zac Yates


Four years ago Caroline Richards' friends suggested she come along to Tauranga's Matua Club to try table tennis. Now she has five New Zealand Masters Games medals in the sport to her name, including three golds.

Richards was one of a group of 13 from Tauranga competing in the Masters table tennis at Jubilee Stadium yesterday, although she didn't see it as a competition as such.

"The way we play here it's all very social, at the opens the competition is a lot stronger.

"The club meets three times a week so that's all the practice I get, although I really should practise more. The club shuts down over summer so none of us have really been playing much before coming here."

When she first walked into her club she was greeted by a room full of "old wrinklies", who she thought would not put up much of a fight at the table.

"I thought to myself well, they're not going to be much of a challenge, but it turned out they were all really good.

Luckily they all coached me and helped me get better, and now I'm able to beat almost everyone."

Her first Masters Games, in 2009, saw her walk away with a bronze medal. She was determined to get home and practise hard for the next event so she could get a gold.

"And when I was done at the 2011 games I got three golds and a silver," she said.

Wanganui's Jan Purvis, who was once a rep player, has a career in the sport that stretches back to childhood.

"This is my third Masters playing table tennis, but I also played tennis over the weekend and ended up with a bronze medal.

"After playing tennis it's hard to keep the ball on the table, I have to remember how to hit properly. I only ever play this at the Masters so the competition can get very hard."

Something she and many other participants commented on was the decline in numbers from previous events.

"It's hard to know why the numbers are so down. Whether it's because they're scared to get time off work to play what is essentially a social game, or if they can't afford it as realistically it can get very expensive, especially if you're coming from out of town.

"There's maybe half a dozen of us playing from Wanganui today, whereas I know there are local people I played with last time who haven't shown up. Maybe it is just the economy hitting everyone quite hard," she said.

Another of the Tauranga contingent, Trish Sinkinson, said the small playing hall was packed in 2011. This year nearly a third of the tables weren't being used during the women's singles round robin.

"Normally we have to be here by 8.30am but we regularly come before 8am, and last time the place was absolutely packed at that early time."

But she said the most important part of the game had not changed despite the lower numbers.

"It's this sense of comradeship, of just doing things together. At the end of the day as long as you're enjoying it you still have fun."

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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