OCEANSIDE, Calif. — Ninety-year-old Simon Wasserman knows exactly why he has lived a long and happy life.
“Without table tennis, I don’t think I would be here right now,” Wasserman said.
Without Wasserman, table tennis would not have one of its founding fathers.
A member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, the Oceanside resident has swung his paddle for more than 70 years, playing, coaching and teaching. In October, he won the gold medal at the World Senior Games in the 90-year-old age group.
“One guy whispers to the other guy, ‘He’s 90. I shouldn’t have any trouble with him,’” Wasserman said. “However, I surprised him.”
I experienced that surprised feeling when I played a quick game with Wasserman.
“Most of the guys, they’re kind of embarrassed when they lose to me,” Wasserman said.
I know that feeling, too.
Fortunately, Wasserman says he never gloats.
“I’m only happy to be able to play them,” he said with a chuckle.
Fellow Oceanside resident Bill McLaurin, 71, frequently plays with Wasserman and he knows all his moves.
Most notably, the “Si pirouette” where Wasserman hits with his backhand and spins around.
“It really gives him an advantage,” McLaurin said. “Because it puts him in the proper stance in the forehand should it come.”
Wasserman said he plays three times a week, for about three hours a day, and believes that table tennis is a medication that can drastically improve anyone’s health. It’s not a drug, but does have a couple side effects.
“One of them is that it can be addictive,” Wasserman said.
He is living proof of that.