Rack­ets at the ready for vet­er­ans

Central Leader - - SPORT - By BEN ROGERS

Come Mon­day the Trusts Arena in Hen­der­son will be swarm­ing with more than 1500 ta­ble ten­nis play­ers from all over the world.

Among the play­ers at the STAG World Vet­eran Ta­ble Ten­nis Cham­pi­onships will be New Zealand leg­ends Barry Grif­fiths and Sarah San­d­ley.

Grif­fiths, 50, an eight-time New Zealand cham­pion who rep­re­sented New Zealand at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, has come out of re­tire­ment to give the tour­na­ment a go.

‘‘It’s go­ing to be tough,’’ the One­hunga res­i­dent says.

‘‘You need to have your shots very well grooved to han­dle the pace of some of the shots.’’

He started play­ing the game when he was 11 years old and played at the high­est level through to age 28.

‘‘We had a street full of sporty kids and in our sit­u­a­tion we had the only ta­ble so all the kids came to our place,’’ he says.

‘‘I got to prac­tise all the time and just got bet­ter and bet­ter.’’

Grif­fiths was in­ducted into the New Zealand Ta­ble Ten­nis hall of fame in 2009.

Fel­low na­tional cham­pion San­d­ley is look­ing for­ward to see­ing Grif­fiths play com­pet­i­tively again.

‘‘From my point of view and a lot of other play­ers, to have Barry play­ing in this tour­na­ment is pretty spe­cial be­cause ev­ery­body from our era knows and re­spects him,’’ she says.

The Auck­land City res­i­dent is no am­a­teur when it comes to ta­ble ten­nis. She has repres- ented both Eng­land and New Zealand at the high­est level and last year, af­ter tak­ing the game back up, won the Aus­tralian Vet­er­ans Ta­ble Ten­nis Cham­pi­onship.

‘‘At 14 I went and watched an Eng­land Open Cham­pi­onship and I was stunned by the po­etry of the game, there was a re­ally beau­ti­ful rhythm,’’ she says.

San­d­ley says that people in New Zealand aren’t of­ten ex­posed to ta­ble ten­nis be­ing played at this level and it’s quite a dif­fer­ent game than people imag­ine.

The tour­na­ment is split into dif­fer­ent age cat­e­gories and will fea­ture men and women play­ing sin­gles as well as dou­bles.

There will be more than 6000 matches played dur­ing the week and both Grif­fiths and San­d­ley say spec­ta­tors will be in for a treat.

San­d­ley says people will be amazed at the ath­leti­cism of play­ers.

‘‘There are a lot of phys­i­cal de­mands on play­ers and the in­tri­ca­cies of the game like spin will be great to watch,’’ she says.

Great ef­fort: St Cuth­berts’ stu­dents took on the ITU World Triathlon Su­per Sprint and had some great re­sults. Four stu­dents did par­tic­u­larly well. From left, Me­gan Green­smith placed sec­ond, Ken­dall Vaughan placed first, Emily Hacket Pain10th and Emily Mell­sop 20th.

Two leg­ends: Sarah San­d­ley and Barry Grif­fiths are ex­cited about the STAG World Vet­eran Ta­ble Ten­nis Cham­pi­onships.

Go to cen­tral­leader.co.nz to see a video of Sarah San­d­ley at the Aus­tralian Vet­eran Cham­pi­onships.

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