MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. - Scott and Austin Preiss eat, sleep, and breathe table tennis, and they're happy to see the sport grow with popularity during the pandemic.
While most sports are back in action or starting back up again soon, it was nearly impossible to find any sport to watch earlier this summer. But one unassuming game pulled ahead and kept folks watching and wagering. In May, Colorado fans bet almost $7 million on table tennis. Making it the most popular sport to gamble on.
Scott and his son, Austin, lucked out and were well prepared for a home table tennis set up. In their Manitou Springs basement, they've had a table set up for 26 years, so they can play at home.
Scott is a Hall of Fame table tennis player and coach, and he is commonly referred to as the ping pong man. "I started working at the Olympic Center in 1986," says Scott Preiss. "And I still work with the association, and Austin and I complete a lot of corporate shows for the Olympic Committee."
Austin is pretty good at ping pong too. He's been coached by his dad all his life and is a national and international player. "It is kind of the best of both worlds because my dad is partially an entertainer and the other part of him is a coach so to have that mix of discipline and to also have somebody that can also mess around and make the sport fun is a great mix," says Austin Preiss.
With such a bond, and with impressive skills to back it up, the paddle possibilities are endless. "When I was younger I used to have a lot of dreams of playing in the Olympics or at the world level. It's still a dream of mine and we'll see if it happens one day," says Austin.
With a competitive table in their own home, these two can face off all the time and push each other to be better. So you might be wondering, who's the better player? "Definitely me," says Austin. "I think maybe 10-15 years ago he had a standing chance, but not anymore."
Competitiveness aside, Scott and Austin says family ties are what set them apart from the rest. "I've done 3,000 shows with everybody and Olympic teams, but it seems that they want to see a father and a son go at it, it's really interesting," says Scott.
Austin received a scholarship for table tennis and golf. He graduated a few years ago and came back to the area where he works in healthcare and helps out with his dad's ping pong clubs.
The two say the sport is perfect during the pandemic because they can easily social distance with the large game table separating them. And they are sanitizing the balls and paddles frequently.