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Dream becomes reality at inaugural ITTF Parkinson's World Table Tennis Championships in New York!

Photo: ITTF


"Table Tennis. For All. For Life." The mantra of the International Table Tennis Federation rang loud and clear at the first ever ITTF Parkinson's World Table Tennis Championships, held in collaboration by the ITTF, ITTF Foundation and Ping Pong Parkinson this month at the Westchester Table Tennis Club in Pleasantville, New York.


Sixty-one inspirational athletes, representing 12 countries from across the globe, proved that the power of table tennis can bridge what to many might have seemed a barrier too high. They sent out a clear message to the world that not only is it possible to play with Parkinson's Disease – and play with purpose, passion and a smile for that matter – but also that the sport can contribute to a better quality of life.


"I stopped playing the guitar five years after I was diagnosed with Parkinson's, but then I started playing table tennis and I felt 50% better. Now I am playing the guitar again. The idea behind this World Championships is to help as many people around the world as possible to continue living with Parkinson's Disease and to be happy, productive members of the society. We are also engaging the scientific community to look deeper into the health benefits of table tennis," explained Nenad BACH, Founder and Board Member of Ping Pong Parkinson


Regarding such health benefits related to the sport, the National Parkinson Foundation states that "table tennis may be especially good for patients, because it exercises so many parts of the body and the brain, while reinforcing timing, rhythm and balance."


At the culmination of a successful inaugural ITTF Parkinson's World Table Tennis Championships, it was the host nation United States that had the greatest reason to celebrate, securing three of the four titles on offer. Margie ALLEY emerged the women's singles winner, while the three men's events (organised in classes according to the level of impairment) saw Ilya ROZENBLAT and Hamid EZZAT-AHMADI share the honours alongside Germany's Holger TEPPE.


"I played table tennis as a child in the basement of our house. I've lived in the area for 25 years, but it's only recently that I moved to Pleasantville. I contracted Parkinson's in March 2012. I tried tennis but I kept falling over; I much prefer table tennis. Really it's great to be a world champion," stated Margie ALLEY


Holger TEPPE, a 34-year-old German taxi driver by trade, had this to say after clinching the men's singles class 1 title:


"I contracted Parkinson's eight years age. For sure, playing table tennis helps having a better life," said Holger Teppe


Ilya ROZENBLAT was champion of class 2. The 41-year-old, born in Russia but now resident in Kansas City, is a director of a data management department for the federal government and has two children to a Russian wife.


"I was diagnosed with Parkinson's six years ago. I've played in Para tournaments, I was national champion in 2015 and I've also played in hard bat events. I feel incredible, there has never been a tournament like this; the first thing now is to go back home and celebrate with my family. I want to run a similar tournament for people with Parkinson's in Kansas City," stated Ilya Rozenblat


A new world title event has been added to the calendar of the International Table Tennis Federation.


"Our aim with this event is to promote the participation of people with Parkinson's Disease. I have heard so many positive stories telling not only of physical improvement, but mainly the social and psychological impact. It is often that people with PD tend to stay at home, embarrassed of the tremor and having the chance to play brings them out again to interact with other people. This World Championships brought motivation to many people and it is exactly what we want to see: a positive social change through table tennis," said Leandro OLVECH, ITTF Foundation Director


"Since we were so touched from our very first meeting with Mr. Nenad BACH, a true believer of the cause with his own personal story to tell, we felt a real drive to help put on this first World Championships event for people with Parkinson's Disease. We are delighted with this project and the overall direction of the ITTF Foundation, which can lead to amazing results, which in turn will hopefully help many patients and people in need around the world," explained Thomas WEIKERT, ITTF President


"When Mr. Nenad Bach came into my office during the 2018 World Table Tennis Championships, performed a song and told me his inspirational story about how table tennis improved his condition, which allowed him to play music again, I knew we had to do something. This is where the idea of hosting an ITTF Parkinson's World Table Tennis Championships was born and I could not be prouder about how the event turned out in Westchester," said Steve DAINTON, ITTF CEO