Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Table Tennis Tournament Is a Smashing Good Time; 128 Players Registered for the Event Hosted by the Parks Department

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Table Tennis Tournament Is a Smashing Good Time; 128 Players Registered for the Event Hosted by the Parks Department

Article excerpt

Byline: RAQUEL MANNING

The U.S. Coast Guard's anthem boasts, "We're always ready for the call. . . . To win our victory."

On April 1, officer Joe Raymond admitted he wasn't so sure how well those words would apply to his team's performance at table tennis.

Raymond, 29, of the Beaches participated in the Spring Edition of the Jacksonville Table Tennis Tournament with three of his friends. The event, hosted by the city Department of Parks, Recreation and Entertainment at its headquarters building on North Market Street downtown, is held biannually for beginning to advanced table tennis players.

Raymond heard about the tournament through a friend who participated before, and he said he thought it would be fun to enter.

"I'm impressed with the tournament," he said.

But whether he was impressed by his fellow teammates was a different story.

"None of us are going to be taking home a trophy," he said, laughing.

Others in the tournament, however, were playing for the top prize, although many already had credentials.

Stuart Caplin, 56, is the reigning national wheelchair table tennis champion, and he said he has participated in the Jacksonville tournament for about 20 years.

"It's exercise, it's fun, it's competitive," said the Orange Park resident, who has played since he was a child.

John Culbreth, director of the parks department, said he hopes the tournament will attract beginners to the game and that the community will recognize table tennis for what it is.

"We want to expand this activity," he said. "It is an active sport, just as golf and tennis are."

This spring, 128 players registered for the tournament, said Terry Stephens, adult athletics supervisor for the department. He said the event attracts players from as far away as Ontario, Canada. He also said players of all ages can enter, and families are welcome to participate together, as many do already.

"It's more of a family oriented group," he said of those who play the sport.

Southside siblings Alton Wong, 8, and Athena Wong, 9, said they like to play table tennis together with their parents and friends. Although Alton was not registered for the tournament this year, he came to help Athena and his friend, Bryant Lu, 7, practice before matches. …

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