Age doesn't slow drive to win at Over-80 World Table Tennis Championships PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff   
Saturday, 07 September 2013 08:09
You're never too old to go for the gold, as revealed in "Ping Pong," which has its national broadcast premiere on Monday at 10 p.m. It will air on the award-winning PBS documentary series POV (Point of View).
Call this old age, extreme edition: Seven players with 620 years between them compete in the Over 80 World Table Tennis Championships in China's Inner Mongolia.
British players Terry, 81, who has been given a week to live, and Les, 91, a weightlifter and poet, are going for the gold. Inge, 89, from Germany, has used table tennis to paddle her way out of dementia. And Texan Lisa, 85, is playing for the first time.
Ping Pong is an unusual story of hope, regret, friendship, ambition, love - and sheer human tenacity in the face of aging and mortality.
The film will also stream on POV's website,, from Sept. 10-14. Visit the website for educational guides and to find out what's happened in the players' lives since the cameras stopped rolling.
About the competitors:
Lisa Modlich of Houston, a relative newcomer at 85, has led an exciting life. She was raised in an aristocratic Viennese family and fought in the French Resistance before emigrating to the U.S. She is now married to Joachim, 25 years her junior, and is one of the game's fiercest competitors.
British player Terry Donlon is 81 and has cancer. He plays wearing a nebulizer for shortness of breath, earning him a reputation as a "walking miracle." Now, he's been given one week to live.
Fellow Brit Les D'Arcy, 89, is Terry's doubles partner. Les is a renowned advocate for the elderly, known for his determined-some would say fanatical-pursuit of activities such as weightlifting, triathlon and shot-put.
Swede Rune Forsberg, 85, an archrival of Les, sees the 2010 competition as his last chance for gold.
Dorothy DeLow of Australia may not be the best player, but she's a legend in her own right. At 100, she is the game's oldest competitive player.
Ursula Bihl, 89, of Germany, won the world championship three years earlier and almost gave up on going to the 2010 championship.
German Inge Hermann, 89, ended up in the dementia ward of a nursing home after her husband's death 15 years earlier. Introduced to table tennis as therapy, she literally paddled her way back to physical and mental wellbeing, and today she manages the nursing home and teaches computer science classes. In Ping Pong, she's going to her first international competition.
Will the Terry survive his singles matches and play to win the doubles gold? Will Les live up to his extravagant reputation? Will Rune get his gold medal-and vindication? Will Dorothy continue to prove you're never too old? Will Ursula retain her championship? Will Inge win her first medal and make her nursing home proud? Ping Pong discovers uncommon stories of people playing for something far greater than gold medals. They are playing for their lives.
"We wanted to make a film about the tenacity of the human spirit more than about any sports title," says director Hugh Hartford. "There's a message for all of us in this."
Adds producer Anson Hartford, Hugh's brother, "At the beginning we thought we were making a film about what life is like toward the end of our lives, but Ping Pong is much more about living than about dying. It is more about love and friendship than loss and death."

About POV:
Now in its 26th season on PBS, the award-winning POV is the longest-running showcase on American television to feature the work of today's best independent documentary filmmakers. POV has brought more than 365 acclaimed documentaries to millions nationwide. They have won every major film and broadcasting award, including 32 Emmys and 15 Peabody Awards.

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