Doubles Pairs Crowned at the World Veterans

By Larry Hodges | June 24, 2018, 4:11 a.m. (ET)


He may have missed the official presentation, but we organized a special presentation for Nicholas Gangi for his Over 90 Men's Doubles Silver

Every one of the medalists here is a star. But there were 21 doubles events - every five years from Over 40 to Over 90, for both men and women. (But no Over 90 Women's Doubles.) Each event had two gold medalists, two silver medalists, and four bronze medalists (since both semifinalists got bronze). That's 8 x 21 = 168 medals going to the best of the Best of the BEST from all over the world. But if we were to feature all of them, this would be one verrry long article. So I'll have to pick and choose. Here are complete results.

Let's start with USA players, who won seven medals. (Later we'll get to the two "celebrity" superstar teams.) Two all-USA teams medaled, while five other teams that had one USA player also medaled. Overall, USA won one gold, two silvers, and four bronzes.

The lone USA gold was in Over 80 Men's Doubles. Tay Chong Keng (From Alhambra, CA, USA, but originally from Malaysia) teamed with Mok Wing Cheong (SIN) for the gold, defeating Chen Mingsheng/Zhang Zongxi (CHN) in the final, 6,9,5. Alas, their team didn't make it to the awards ceremony, and so I wasn't able to talk to them. At 80 Tay has an insane rating of 2188!

In Over 70 Women's Doubles, USA Hall of Famers Donna Sakai (who alternates between Las Vegas and Maryland) and Connie Sweeris (of Grand Rapids, Michigan), who were profiled earlier in the World Veterans, got the silver. They are long-time partners, who have won Women's Doubles at the U.S. Open twice, and numerous other titles. Their styles complement each other - Donna mostly plays control while Connie ends the point with her forehand.

In the semifinals, against Canadians Parello Smith/Wilhelmina Woo, Connie and Donna coasted, winning the first 11-8, and the second 11-2, with the Canadians giggling at the end of game two as if they were resigned to losing. Maybe that relaxed and helped them - in the next two games they attacked much better, winning 11-8 and leading 9-7 in the fourth. Then, with a net-edge, the Canadians went up 10-7 and we're about to go into the fifth. But with a Connie smash to deuce it, the Americans led 11-10 before pulling out the match, 8,2,-8,11. "We didn't want to go five!" exclaimed Donna.

In the final against Tomoko Egami/Michie Yoshimura of Japan, Connie/Donna won the first 11-7. Up 9-5 and 10-8 in the second, they almost went up 2-0 - but instead lost four in a row - including a net-ticking drive to deuce it - and it was instead 1-1 in games. With the Japanese players attacking better and better, they won the gold, -7,10,6,5, with Donna/Connie getting the silver.

Over 90 Men's Singles had ten players, and they teamed up for five Over 90 Doubles teams - and USA got silver and bronze. (Alas, one player was injured and they had to default some matches.) Getting the gold were the top seeds, Lumir Ruzha (CZE)/Yves Laine (FRA) with a 4-0 record, going 12-1 in games. Coming in second was the USA team of Si Wasserman and Nicholas Gangi, with a 3-1 record - losing to the gold team 0-3 but winning the other three all 3-0. In third was Franz-Hermann Groetschel (GER)/Guy Bizeul (FRA), with a 2-2 record. Bronze medals go to all 3-4 teams, so the team in fourth, Lam Cuong (USA)/Cheng Yongning (CHN) got the other bronze, giving USA another bronze.

Si Wasserman was profiled earlier with wife Patty. His silver-medal-winning partner, Nicholas Gangi, is from Somerville, MA. He said he's won his age group, singles and doubles, at the Senior Olympics numerous times all over the country, from Over 70 on up. He retired 30 years ago as a civilian worker at the Department of Defense (Dept. of Air Force) and took up table tennis - which he's now played for 30 years.

In Over 45 Women's Doubles, Joanna Kubler-Kielb (USA) teamed with Dorota Borkowska (POL) to get the bronze. About a year and a half ago Joanna showed up at my club, Maryland TTC, and signed up for private coaching with me. I remember the first session - though it was obvious she'd played before, she couldn't hit a forehand! Balls were spraying all over the place - off the end, into the net, and rarely in between. On the backhand it was a little better. But she struggled to return serves, and her serves were awful. But a strange thing happened - to make a long story short, two months later she was probably 1900 and still getting better, a shakehander who can loop or hit from both wings. It turned out she'd played on a junior team in Poland, but hadn't played in 30 years. And here she is, 1.5 years after starting up again, and a bronze medalist at the World Veterans!

In Over 45 Men's Doubles, USA's Igor Shulkin teamed up with Sandijs Vasiljevs of Lithuania to get the bronze. In the semifinals they faced the unfairly good team of Jörg Rosskopf (GER)/Chen Weixing (AUT), but did reasonably well, almost getting a game in losing at 6,4,10. Igor, from New York, plays at the Lily Yip TTC with a rating of 2356.

In Over 60 Men's Doubles, Li Yuxiang (USA) teamed up with Wang Xinzhi (CHN) for the bronze. Li's a long-time coach and pips-out penholder from New York with a 2373 rating.

There were two "celebrity" doubles events. In Men's Over 45 Doubles, you'd think Jörg Rosskopf (GER) and Chen Weixing (AUT) would romp. The two superstars ran a Q&A and coaching seminar. Perhaps their Russian opponents, Georgii Rubinshtein/Aleksandr Savelev, attended the seminar? After losing the first 11-4, the Russians battled dead even with the superstars, but Earth didn't spin out of orbit nor did the (super)stars go nova as the Rosskopf/Chen won the gold, 4,10,9.

The "celebrity" doubles was Over 50 Men's Doubles, with Jörgen Persson/Erik Lindh (SWE), two of the superstars that led Sweden to multiple Team titles at the Worlds many years ago, with Persson also winning Men's Singles at the 1991 Worlds (after getting second in 1989), and Lindh getting the bronze in singles at the 1988 Olympics. But semifinal opponents Nicolai Popal/Wang Yansheng (GER) hadn't read their Wikipedia entries, and after losing the first, they won the second 11-3! They also went deuce in the third before the "superstars" won, 5,-3,10,8, outscoring the Germans 37-34. In the final, the "superstars" defeated Sandor Varga (HUN)/Andreas Fejer-Konnert (GER), 7,10,8.

Here's a listing of USA doubles medals.

  • Gold: Tay Chong Keng (USA)/Mok Wing Cheong (SIN) - Over 80 Men's Doubles
  • Silver: Donna Sakai/Connie Sweeris (USA) - Over 70 Women's Doubles
  • Silver: Si Wasserman/Nicholas Gangi (USA) - Over 90 Men's Doubles
  • Bronze: Joanna Kubler-Kielb (USA)/Dorota Borkowska (POL) - Over 45 Women's Doubles
  • Bronze: Igor Shulkin (USA)/Sandijs Vasiljevs (LAT) - Over 45 Men's Doubles
  • Bronze: Li Yuxiang (USA)/Wang Xinzhi (CHN) - Over 60 Men's Doubles
  • Bronze: Lam Cuong (USA)/Cheng Yongning (CHN) - Over 90 Men's Doubles