Monterey puts friendship on the table

Entertainment highlight of annual friendship table tennis tourney

Camaraderie and competition collide each year as two groups of table tennis enthusiasts gather in a battle of wits – and entertainment.

The fifth annual Friendship Table Tennis Games will be held at Monterey Recreation Centre tomorrow (July 17), pitting the Oak Bay group against the Silver Threads Chinese crew.

The original event was funded by the government, in a bid to help immigrants integrate and be comfortable in their new community.

“Our club went for the competition, and friendship as well, and now the clubs are well integrated,” said organizer Joan Wells of the Monterey recreation group. “They weren’t top class table tennis players but you should see them now. They’ve got a trainer.”

About 100 players, roughly half from each club, are expected to come out for the event. The players’ ages span decades and even generations, ranging from 50 to 85, but they come together for the camaraderie and competition of table tennis.

“We play two games each. It’s not so much pressure that way and a lot of it is concentrated on the entertainment as well,” Wells said.

A total of 24 players from each club – 12 men, 12 women – compete. The rest are there as support.

There is a plaque for the overall winner and two paddles, handiwork of the Monterey woodworking club, will be handed out to the top male and female players.

“It’ll be a pretty good event; it goes from about 8:30 to about 4 p.m. Anybody can come in,” Wells said. “We have it at this time of the year because the centre isn’t so busy.”

The award presentation is on July 17 at 2 p.m. at the recreation centre, 1442 Monterey Ave. But come early for the entertainment.

“Our table tennis club’s got a lot of talent. We’ve got an Elvis Presley impersonator and his wife does Hawaiian dancing,” Wells said. The visitors often perform traditional Chinese sword dancing and there’s usually a singalong.

The Monterey centre hosts the event every other year; last year the competition was held at the Les Passmore Centre.