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How The Mighty Fall and Rise: The Tumbles of Dave Sakai

By Larry Hodges | June 18, 2018, 5:45 p.m. (ET)

Near the very end of the Opening Ceremonies on Sunday night for the World Veterans Championships, one of the tournament co-chairs and top players in Over 70, USATT Hall of Famer Dave Sakai, fell off the stage. The lighting had been turned off and he didn't see the edge in back behind a curtain, and so he stepped off. He fell the roughly 3.5 feet down, landing on his back. This was scary.

An ambulance was called, and after checking him over, he went to the hospital for several hours. He returned around 1AM. Final prognosis: two dislocated fingers, and a strained back. Fortunately, the two fingers were on his non-playing left hand, and the back injury wasn't too severe, so he will continue to play in the tournament - at 4:30PM on Monday (today).

It wasn't his first fall of the night. During the opening ceremonies Dave joined a magician on stage as part of an act where the magician spit ping-pong balls at him, and Dave returned them with his paddle. At the end of the routine Dave didn't see a stairway and fell down those stairs - but that time he broke his fall by grabbing the safety rail.

Yes, it takes more than a few falls and broken fingers to stop "Mr. Big" (yes, that's his nickname) from playing. Dave got the bronze medal in Men's 60-64 doubles at the last World Veteran Games in 2016 in Spain (with Dave playing down an age group), and now hopes to add Over 70 - either here, or in two weeks at the USA Nationals, where he's top seed in Over 70 Men. Others hope to knock him off his perch, but he's proven that won't stop him.