(L-R) Mitch and Ian Seidenfeld pose for a photo at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 24, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
Paralympic hopeful Ian Seidenfeld has table tennis in his blood.
Ever since he was four or five, he’s been competing in the sport. When he turned 12, he began traveling for international competitions.
Traveling the world at age 12 for your sport isn’t as glorious as it may sound. The competition is tough, and no one is going easy on you, even though you aren’t quite a teenager.
But that’s the lifestyle when your father is a three-time Paralympian and a Paralympic champion.
Mitch Seidenfeld is a para table tennis legend. He won a gold medal for Team USA at the Paralympic Games Barcelona 1992 and a silver at the Paralympic Games Atlanta 2008.
Now, he helps coach his son, which has taken them both to the Parapan American Games Lima 2019.
“It’s really fun having him here to experience this along with me,” Ian said. “We’ve created a great bond with table tennis.”
Sometimes, however, the father-son dynamic doesn’t always go as smoothly as one might hope.
“We’ve always had this problem where I don’t quite listen to him because he’s my dad,” Ian laughed. “I respect him, I respect everything he says and does, he’s a great player, but from the father-son aspect, we always butt heads a little bit more than I might another coach.
“But it’s great to have him. He’s the smartest table tennis player I know for sure.”
The Parapan Games mark the largest event that Ian has ever competed in, which comes with a new set of challenges.
“There’s way more pressure,” he said. “Even though I know some of the guys that I’m competing against, it feels like there’s a lot more of a need to win from everyone.”
Ian finished with a silver medal in the Class 6 competition on Saturday, falling just short of Paralympic qualification for Tokyo.
Regardless, a silver-medal finish is an impressive feat in his biggest competition to date. While Europe has historically been the power house for table tennis, the Americas are on the rise.
“For the Americas, we’re getting much stronger and much quicker now. With the Chileans getting better, the Brazilians are getting much better, the United States is starting to do more,” Ian explained. “So, in the competitive aspect, we all look at it like we’re getting better and it’s tough competition, no matter who you’re competing against here.”
Also on Saturday, in Class 9 competition, Tahl Leibovitz won gold and punched his ticket for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Leibovitz defeated Miguel Vazquez of Mexico in the final round. Leibovitz won the first set, but then proceeded to drop the next two, going down 2-1. He surged in the final two to finish off his 3-2 victory.
"We actually had a similar match against each other in 2015. I think probably my experience helped this time, I'm very old," Leibovitz laughed.
Leibovitz, 44, is a five-time Paralympian and a Paralympic champion. And he's not slowing down yet.
"I want to win a gold in Tokyo, but my goal is to keep going to 2028."
Team competition begins for para table tennis on Monday.