Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Table Tennis Challenge: Ping Bounce Pong Bounce Ping Bounce Swoosh...Bounce

This next sporting challenge (undertaken in October 2010) is based on a game played by more people than any other in the world so I thought it would only be right to take my quest playing matches in England and Scotland!

The Table Tennis Challenge:

  • 6 matches
  • Against 6 different opponents
  • In 6 days

With a pending work trip around half of the UK's best countries ahead I looked to capitalise on my journey by seeking opponents in each location I'd visit; I tapped out tweets, mails, Facebook messages and texts, and even resorted to calling a few people too.

Manchester was done and dusted within an afternoon and on day one I had time aplenty to get to Leeds and check out my customers there too, plus as I was done by store closing time and knew someone in the area I hoped they'd be available and made the call...

You may recall Coach Josie was right at the heart of me changing my goals from 12 to every sport in the Olympics when training me for The Weightlifting Challenge, now she's studying in the city of Leeds and thankfully had a small window of opportunity to play...sadly though every sports club or leisure centre I called was either booked or having their table repaired...FAIL!

I trotted off to visit my good hearty northern pals, Chris and Trish; the very same folk from The Badminton Challenge and The Tennis Challenge.

This time I was determined to beat Chris, he'd won our two previous encounters on those past challenges and now I needed to show my skills with a mini-racquet...I mean bat.

We played like practising champions, in a hall with only one table...well, Chris played like a practising champion, I played like I'd not picked up a bat since holidaying in sunnier climes nearly ten years ago (because I hadn't).

After my thrashing, Chris delighted in giving me some tips and then revealed that he used to play this for hours, every day!

The next day I set off to work and towards Match 2: this time my opponent would be a man I'd trounced during The Tennis Challenge; Tones would be after revenge.

After work I picked up Tones from his location just outside of Newcastle and we headed to a table I'd pre-booked in sports centre that clearly had been state-of-the-art in the 70's, but was now as unloved as an old teddy in the bottom of a teenage lad's wardrobe.

This was to be a battle of gargantuan proportions; Tones took a game, I took a game, Tones took a game, I took...anyhow it reached 3-3, meaning the winner would take all in the final was tenser than Conan The Barbarian, constipated.

We rallied and rallied and smashed and sliced and Tones even hit the deck on one occasion but he emerged victorious and looking like a mildly sweaty and make-up-less Noel Fielding.

Two matches down and 4 to play, I would have to win all of my remaining fixtures to be claimed King overall.

Edinburgh and Aberdeen were visited the following day, and then I had a large Glaswegian in mind with whom to do Table Tennis War!

Louis stands some 8 feet tall and has a reach that would leave me only speed as a potential weapon...but disaster struck when I arrived in Glasgow to find my ol' pal an injured man - I'm not going into his wound but let's just say every one of us would prefer not to have it (thankfully he's better now and the extra hole in his bum has healed nicely).

The match off, we settled into a lovely home cooked meal thanks to his wonderful missus and had a good catch-up, I was relieved in a way as maybe now I could wash off the smell of defeat.

By the start of Day 4 I had a total of no wins and 2 defeats to my name; one beating and one valiant and well-fault loss. The clock was ticking so I had to formulate a plan...

That very eve I would pull off a masterstroke in mid-week organisation; I fixed not 1, not 2 nor 3 but 4 matches - this would be a mini event of the nature no small town sports hall had seen independently organised within its venue before...or it would have been if we hadn't been playing on football night and so had to play on a table set up in one of the squash rooms.

Ali, Matt, Clare and Jess would be my four opponents, I would need a strong wrist and a sound mind to win against them all.

Ali ruined this immediately. He beat me like the novice I was, and this provided my remaining adversaries with the confidence to attack me with verve.

Matt tried some sly shots, but I won through - the taste of my one victory, bitter in the mouth with 3 helpings of defeat - I would need to beat the girls or 'die' trying.

Clare...oh dear, clearly Edinburgh (yes Clare is from Scotland's fair capital but she was living in Leicester at this point) taught many things but not how to play ping pong. I just had the missus to beat...

Victory! In a final match that would see me possibly giving away some points just so's I wouldn't have to sleep on the sofa, I beat Jess with the skills I'd accumulated in 4 short yet long-distanced days.

I'd recommend Table Tennis to everyone, but then again, given that so many of you play it already I guess I don't have to.

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