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2013 USATT Hall of Fame - Player Inductee

TERESE TERRANOVA 

By USATT Historian Tim Boggan 

            With the coming of 1987, avid USATT National Games and International Paralympian Wheelchair player Terese Terranova had already accumulated in competition maybe a dozen combined Gold and Silver awards, and was primed for more. This year was special—she was one of the 15 U.S. athletes attending the World Wheelchair Championships in Brisbane, Australia. It had been a long, exhausting trip for the Fort Lauderdale-based Terranova via San Francisco, Honolulu, and Cairns, but on arrival in Brisbane her hopes remained high, for she knew she was well-prepared for the matches ahead.

            Team Coach/Administrative Assistant Marcy Monasterial, in writing up the Women’s play for our national magazine, Table Tennis Topics, begins with the initial Team event:

“Play was divided into two round robins, and our group’s opponents were Hong Kong, Germany, and Great Britain. Against Hong Kong we suffered a 3-2 loss. Terese, opening for us, lost to P.Y. Hong (World #2), and, though Jennifer Johnson beat Hong and our pair won the doubles, neither of our women could stop Y.W. Fung (Class 4 Singles winner). However, later, against Germany, we won decisively, 3-0, with Jennifer defeating C. Weniger (Class 3 finalist). We also blitzed Great Britain, 3-0. Then, our U.S. Team got a break: Germany, winner over Great Britain, got the better of Hong Kong, 3-2, to create a three-way tie, and we advanced to the final.

The other round robin winner was the Netherlands, the one country of the 15 entered that sent only female players. We beat them 3-1. Jennifer lost to Monique van der Bosch (World #1), but Terese downed Mariel van der Ploeg, then had a big win over Bosch, and our pair took the doubles. Gold in the Team event for the U.S.

            In the Class 4 Singles, Terese lost her first match to Austria’s H. Fetz (runner-up in last year’s Class 4 European Championship). But then she defeated Switzerland’s R. Zaugg (World #3) and P.Y. Wong (World #2) whom she’d lost to in the Teams. So she advanced to the final against Hong Kong’s Fong. This time, though, she couldn’t avenge her loss in the Teams and was beaten 17 in the third, no thanks to four edge balls called against her [“called” suggests call might not have been correct?]. Silver for Terranova.

            In the Women’s Doubles, though, Terese and Jennifer overwhelmed every seeded team they faced, including the English team of C.Walton and G. Matthews, the Germans Weniger and Lambasch, and the very tough Hong Kong pair of Fung and Wong. Another Gold for the U.S. pair.

            In the Women’s Open Singles, Terese reversed her loss to Austria’s Fetz, again finished off Switzerland’s Ploeg in straight games, and downed Germany’s R. Lamsback (Open Singles winner in 1984). That brought Terese to the semi’s where she eliminated Germany’s M. Bartheidel, 2-0. And then to the final where she completed her dominance of those ranked above her by defeating Netherland’s J. Paardekam (who’d prevailed over her now ex-World #1 teammate Bosch). Gold for Terranova—and, most importantly, a special Gold, for this Open Singles win automatically made her the 1987 Women’s Wheelchair World Champion!” 

Want to know more about Terese? Here’s Caron Leff (TTT, Mar., 1987, 23) with a Profile of the new World Champion:

“Since Terese Terranova is quite an incredible human being and an extraordinary athlete, why don’t I start from the beginning to show you how she came to be the Champion she is.

She was born May 21, 1947 in North Bergen, N.J. She participated in sports through all her years of elementary and high school. North Valley Regional High School is where she became very competitive in basketball, judo, swimming, track and field, and semi-pro basketball. Terese always considered herself a female jock.

In 1971, while moving from Northvale, NJ to Fort Lauderdale, Fl, fate appeared in the form of a terrible auto accident. Terese was forced into a concrete wall by another car—severing parts of her back in five separate places. Following the accident, she was paralyzed, but alive. Then after some time of recuperation she began her quest of assembling the pieces of her life and becoming the Champion she is today.

Terese is one of those people who thrive and grow on competition. Since her start in competitive sports she has won 64 national titles, including 30 Gold medals in six different sports—her specialty being table tennis, where in Jan., ‘87 she’d become the Women’s Wheelchair World Champion.

How’d she accomplish this? Well, she knew in order to have any chance at all of becoming World Champion she must dedicate herself to that end, body and soul. The training for this world title spanned 18 months for four to six hours each day, six to seven days per week, including separate nautilus training for strength and endurance. Terese also was firm in following a special diet recommended by Dr. Hass, a sports nutrition expert, which many world-renowned athletes (such as Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova) had followed while in training.

Special thanks go to her trainer, coach, and close friend Marty Prager for his encouragement and strong faith in her ability. Most great athletes need someone behind the scenes to offer them the inspiration they need to achieve success. Know, though, that Terese, in 1987 a full-time cosmetician at The Beauty Castle in Fort Lauderdale, is also very much her own person. Her show of strength, dedication, and independent spirit is just what you’d expect of a World Champion.” 

That summer at the U.S. Open in Miami, Terranova won the Women’s Over 40 against all stand-up opposition. (In the USTTA Rating System, she’d reach a high of 1820.)

1988 was a pretty good year for Terese too. It had to have been very exciting for her to be on the podium at the Seoul Paralympics, a double Gold medalist by winning both the Teams with Jennifer and the Singles, and so receiving such lifetime-memorable attention. Terese’s mentor and intimate friend Prager, a Hall of Famer in his own right, shared the moment, said, “Perhaps the greatest thrill of my table tennis career came as they played the National Anthem and raised the American flag at the Medal ceremony with Terese at the #1 spot on the awards podium.”

Terranova would continue winning wheelchair medals on a somewhat lesser scale for another 10 years, but more and more she and Prager would form a partnership coaching alliance—with Terese specializing in tournament tactics, for as Marty said, “She can read a match as well as anyone.” They were especially interested in working with kids—and did so…in successive clubs at Legion Park and  the Laurel Gardens Apartment Complex in Coral Springs (where they coached the Activities Director’s son, Casey McLeod, to be the U.S. Open Under 10 Champ, and where by the mid-‘90’s, they’d produced a cluster of Junior Olympic, U.S. Open, and U.S. Closed winners, among them T.J. Beebe, Josh Bernstein, Randy Cohen, Anthony Torino, and, most enduringly, Keith Alban who would graduate, as it were, to be a member of the U.S. Men’s Team.)

Though their Laurel Gardens club closed, Terese and Marty could be found coaching—they had to be coaching, this “old man and the gimp” as they laughingly called themselves—at a fitness club. Turns out the father of one of their students was the principal of the Chinese Cultural School in Coral Springs. He invited them to come to the school and encouraged them to see if a table tennis program there was possible. Much work was necessary. At the moment, they had two old tables that were put up once a week, and only a few adults and youngsters who played. But a year and a half later, they “had a constantly growing group of some 35 kids, ages 6 to 17.”

An ever-improving situation with the Coral Springs Chinese Cultural Association had enabled Terese and Marty, “what with summer camps and clinics…to expand a two-table, once-a-week play into a six-table, six times a week active program.” And in the new-millennium years that followed, under their guidance a new generation of Junior Olympic medal winners flourished.

“We know the kids, the parents, have to sacrifice,” says Terese, “and we want always to be there to give them encouragement. We’re pretty strict with the kids, we demand a lot. But though we try to keep them focused, we know we have to keep it all fun too.”

Stay focused; have fun—that’s how Terese herself advanced to where she’s being honored tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to our Hall, Terese Terranova. 

Marty Prager and Terese Terranova

Marty Prager and Terese Terranova