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Live on TransWeb...1998 US Transplant Games
Audience Cheers Through Tough Day at Larkins
Story by Jim Gleason (athlete) and Tanya Good, audio by Bob Garypie
See Table Tennis Results at NKF Results

Even a person who knows nothing about table tennis would know after watching the athletes play in Larkins Hall that it is a game of concentration and quick reflexes. Athletes of all ages seem to enjoy this sport as it is one that challenges the competitors both mentally and physically. Table tennis is not a sport that requires as much endurance as say track and field, but the heat of Larkins Hall did take its toll on the athletes. Looking at it from a player's experience, it looked like this...

Saturday morning, much too early and still stiff from prior days events of badminton and bowling, nervousness returns. I'm no athlete, neither before my heart transplant of 4 years ago, nor since. Later, emotions would fill my eyes with tears when I see my age of 55 listed on the swim event listing - the oldest by 10 years of the swimmers in that event - emotions of joy at being alive here with family and so many friends (both old and new - and some I haven't even met yet) and tears as seeing that '55' in print - I've never been here before, oldest of the pack!

Entering the gym filled with other anxious faces, the summer heat and humidity hit you in the face. Beads of sweat form quickly and persist despite repeated toweling. I follow the "athlete check in here" signs. "You're playing NOW on table 4." I look up the name of my - about to become new - friend and hope he is either very good and will dispatch me quickly or - well, back 40 years ago, I was a real scrapper in the neighborhood games - of course we called it "Ping Pong" then. My wife of 33 years, now a cheerleader in the humid bleachers, and I played many a game during our courtship back then. Knees and muscle cramps were neither a concern nor a factor then. Maybe I could win a match here today? Wow, could my name move up to the next level of the '46 - 55 men's' ladder?

Nick Winn, 16

Listen here to an interview with 16 year old Nick Winn of Indiana at the 1998 Games

Flashback to 1996:

Nick Winn, 14


Maybe! My heart is ready and says go for it. Clint and I meet with very non-competitive smiles and glad hand shakes. Most of us non-athletes are here to support the message of transplant success with a medal for our efforts a distant dream. We play hard with mutual support and encouragement. NKF volunteers act as ball retrievers. We feel like Wimbledon pros with such service.

Before long the rules of the game dictate an end to our fun and laughter. One of us moves up the event ladder as we part, exchanging thanks and wishes we will meet again in 2 years at the next games. Wow, I moved up. Maybe a medal was possible? Rest in the shade until the next match in 15 minutes.Would the legs hold up? The heart is working well - life is good!

There he is - Phil, my next opponent - we both are 4 year out heart recipients. Both of us know how very special it is to be here! I fight for a few points as he hammers with a wicked serve. I feel good - legs respond - points pass quickly and before long, we are shaking hands with mutual congratulations - we both have share a 'win - win' so rare in sports today.

Agatha Hebl

Listen to our interview with Agatha Hebl of St. Paul, Minnesota has three daughters: two of them have donated kidneys to the third, who is competing at the '98 Games

Phil moves on with his own dreams of medal as the end of the ladder approaches. I return to my cheerleading wife and encouragement. She is so HOT in that gym. So are all the spectatators - so many loving family and supporters. The competition continues as all was watch from the side lines. All that can be heard in the gymnasium is the ping, ping as the balls bounce from one competitors paddle to the next. Looking across the gymnasium, balls could be seen flying back and forth across the net, tangled in the net and bouncing across the floor.

We move on to the swimming, a 50 meter free is my next challenge. Wow, 4 events in 3 days. Onward (with a prayer of thanks to my unknown donor family)!

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Last modified: 11 May 2000