Naperville seniors prove Ping-Pong is no 'lost art'

  • Joe Seifts of Naperville returns a shot Wednesday during the men's Ping-Pong component of the first Naperville Park District Senior Games. Seifts won the competition.

      Joe Seifts of Naperville returns a shot Wednesday during the men's Ping-Pong component of the first Naperville Park District Senior Games. Seifts won the competition. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Calvin Chopp of Naperville reaches for the ball Wednesday during a Ping-Pong match as part of Naperville Park District's first Senior Games. Chopp placed fourth in the tournament.

      Calvin Chopp of Naperville reaches for the ball Wednesday during a Ping-Pong match as part of Naperville Park District's first Senior Games. Chopp placed fourth in the tournament. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Joe Seifts and David Wise battle it out in the final of the men's Ping-Pong competition during Naperville Park District's first senior games. Seifts won the match and placed first while Wise came in second.

      Joe Seifts and David Wise battle it out in the final of the men's Ping-Pong competition during Naperville Park District's first senior games. Seifts won the match and placed first while Wise came in second. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/24/2015 4:49 PM

The competition was heated in a room that smelled of coffee.

With family members and neighbors in the audience, Arthur Hawksley of Naperville grabbed a Ping-Pong paddle and stepped to the table to be one of the first competitors in Naperville Park District's inaugural Senior Games.

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"We're his biggest fans," said Hawksley's daughter, LeeAnn Lynch of Plainfield, who brought along her 9-year-old son Liam to be the rest of Hawksley's cheering section.

Hawksley and six other participants, all 50 or older, were aiming for a first-place medal in the new tournament, which is part of a series the park district launched to promote healthy lifestyles and physical activity among older adults.

It was the perfect opportunity for the Silverado Naperville Memory Care Community to plan an outing, and five Silverado residents showed up as a team. Dressed in a uniform of matching navy polos, three men and two women from the memory care center planned to compete in Ping-Pong on Wednesday.

"Silverado is here to show we can do anything," said Robyn Velazquez, director of resident engagement. "Nothing can stop us."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In his first-round match, however, Hawksley's Ping-Pong progress was stopped by Gilbert Singler, who went on to finish in third place.

Hawksley said he didn't think the match went too well, but he only practices once a month. He pointed at fellow Silverado resident Calvin Chopp as an example of a more accomplished player; Chopp plays every day, Hawksley said, and he finished in fourth place.

Hawksley's grandson said he attended Wednesday morning's Senior Games to support his grandpa in hopes Hawksley would get a win. But Liam admitted he's often the victor when the two play together at Silverado.

"I usually do a little bit better," Liam said with a smile.

His mom called Ping-Pong "a lost art" among members of the younger generation who are often so engrossed in smartphones. But smartphones were snapping photos galore as Senior Games competitors proved the art of playing Ping-Pong isn't yet lost on them.

Champion Joe Seifts and second-place finisher David Wise both play enough of the sport that they brought their own paddles -- Seifts' with a smooth surface that makes it easy to put spin on the ball, and Wise's with a textured outer layer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Action moved fast in the single-elimination tournament, in which the seniors entered for a $5 fee. Play started at 10 a.m. in the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center's game room, and by 10:15, the semifinals were on.

Men's Ping-Pong wrapped up as Seifts beat Wise about 10:35 and then it was time for more pictures. The Silverado team and its fan base of roughly 20 people smiled for a group shot before a lunch of Subway sandwiches and an afternoon watching the women take their turn.

The sport is among eight activities in the first Senior Games, which also include billiards, ceramic arts, golf, pinochle, softball, swimming and trapshooting.

The games conclude with an awards lunch from noon to 2 p.m. Friday at the Riverwalk Community Center, 305 W. Jackson Ave.

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