Sari Kisbany won a gold medal in table tennis singles event at the Florida State Seniors game. She is flanked by Rhoda Blau, left, and Helen Manor, right.
REDINGTON SHORES - Sari Kisbany, 76, has a lifetime of medals and memories from chasing a little white ball.
We’re not talking about golf here. Kisbany is a table tennis champion.
The Redington Shores resident recalled that while she was pregnant, she defeated an opponent in match play.
“It was two against one,” Kisbany said.
The Netherlands native began playing in her late teens, becoming serious about the game when she was 20 and competing in leagues in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. A newspaper article touted her abilities, she said.
“A lot of people play table tennis in Europe,” she said. “Many more than in the United States.”
Kinsbury, who is a widow, came to Florida to get married and has lived in Redington Shores since 1995.
Her dedication to the game has been rewarded with medals, plaques and articles in various publications. Her most recent feat was winning a gold medal for singles, ages 75 to 79, at the Florida State Senior Games Dec. 4 in Fort Myers.
She has also won numerous medals in the National Senior Games, including a gold medal in doubles and silver medal in singles in 2005.
“I don’t like silver that much – but it’s OK,” said Kisbany, smiling.
She and her “significant other,” Tom Papppas, make periodic trips across the country for her table tennis tournaments. The petite retired executive secretary has no plans of laying aside her paddle and looks forward to vying in the National Senior Games this summer in Louisville, Ky.
“I’ll play as long as I can,” said Kisbany, who never has incurred a major sports injury from the game.
She also plays golf a few times a week, walks often and works out in her condominium complex’s gym.
“I love sports altogether,” said Kisbany. “I played a lot of tennis and also field hockey.”
“She’s a jock,” Papppas said. “She’s very competitive about sports.”
She plays at her condo clubhouse and also at the Long Center in Clearwater and has won numerous medals in local events. She is “one of the Golden Girls of the Sunrise Table Tennis Club.” A playing partner is nicknamed “The Egyptian Scorpion.”
A cup bearing Kisbany’s name is presented to winners of a table tennis event involving a club in Lakeland and hers.
Kisbany has no special diet, though she tries to avoid eating animal fat. She has no special pre-tournament exercises other than to practice. She doesn’t get nervous, she said.
Her game strength is playing defense – mastering the “chop” shot. She positions herself close to or away from the table based on her analysis of her opponent. More players today are offensive specialists than in years past, Kisbany said.
“She returns almost everything,” Papppas said. “She has eye-hand coordination that’s terrific. That’s probably the most important consideration.”
The biggest drawback in playing big tournaments is the amount of time involved. Some tournaments will start at 8 a.m. and continue until 6:30 p.m. on a given day.
“She’s not a watcher,” Papppas said. “She’s a player.”