Saturday, April 6, 2019

Table tennis blindfolded

I got a call a few days ago from a woman named Irina, whom I had helped a couple of years ago when she and her table-tennis team were passing through town. They’re all visually impaired, and they found me through the volunteer organization I helped to organize. I was curious about how they can play with just a noisy ball, and they promised to show me how the game works at their next opportunity.

Irina’s team was in town again last week, training for the national playoffs later this month. The winning team from Belarus will take on teams from all over Europe, and I think there’s even a world event at the culmination. Anyway, Irina invited me to watch a practice, and I brought along a blindfold “just in case.”

I filmed a couple of the women warming up. Later, I learned that these are not the strongest players in the group, but the video at least shows you how the game works. There are rules and subtleties, but it’s not hard to get started.

After I watched a few different pairs play, somebody finally invited me to give it a shot. “Well, yeah,” I said, and I got out my blindfold. They wouldn’t let me play with just a blindfold. The ball is hard, and sometimes it moves quite fast. They wear heavily-padded gloves and insisted that I find a glove before I could play. Valentina even loaned me her wristband, showing me a red spot on her arm from a ball that missed the wrist band.

I played OK at first, against a woman. They had warned me, however, that men played much more aggressively. Then they brought in Alexander, one of the other guys I’d met a couple of years ago. He annihilated me, but I had a good time trying to keep up. When we finished, he promised to send me details about the national competition in Gomel later this month. I’m thinking I’ll go, at least for one day. I want to see them going at it for real. I’d love to play again too, but I can’t figure out how to make that happen, short of buying a table.

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