COLORADO SPRINGS — I don't know about you, but I find table tennis competitions in the Olympics just fascinating. Those players are so focused, it's so fast, the precision, timing, footwork, and serves are mind-boggling.
Turns out, we have a table tennis Hall Of Fame member living in Colorado Springs, he is also a former U.S. Olympic player, coach, and head trainer for the U.S. men's and women's table tennis team who has brought his love of the game to the local masses.
Scott Preiss is one heck of a table tennis player, who continues to perform, teach and entertain. He is a magnet for enthusiasm, and I just choose to call him "The Pied Piper Of Ping Pong".
I asked him recently, what is it about the sport that so many of us can relate to?
"You know, I think it's the diverse part of the sport, there are so many different types of shots that you can hit and everybody can play on an equal plane," said Preiss
I learned the game and loved the game as a young man in a friend's basement, the venue for millions of us who do not have aspirations to become an Olympic champion, we just love the competition, the spirit of the game, the technique, and the physical challenge.
It doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman, eight or 80 years old, 5'5 or 6'5, there are no boundaries. Preiss told me it was his parents who motivated him at an early age.
"And you know, you, me and like everybody else, it's usually our moms and dads that encourage us through sport, and I uh, really thank them for that, I think sport is life," he said.
True to his word, his life has revolved around table tennis, it's also a family matter to Preiss. Today he plays with his son, Austin, who carries on this family tradition. They have a local table tennis club that has grown in popularity, particularly with the Olympics happening.
The ping pong community has grown during the pandemic. There is plenty of separation on your standard ping pong table for social distancing. It's also a great way to socialize after having being isolated.
"This is a sport that brings people together, you get to know people, it's therapeutic basically," said Ebenezer Quaye, a member of the local ping pong club.
Julian and Finnan Jones are also members of the club, they developed their father-son love of the game during the pandemic. Dad introduced his son to a game he loved as a child, and they are flourishing, together. Finnan, I was told, getting better fast, and the 12-year-old just loves the competition. I asked young Finnan if he had any aspirations to compete in the Olympics one day, he said he would love to, and while he doesn't expect himself to reach that level he says it's a good goal to shoot for.
As for this year's Olympic competition in Tokyo, the Asian countries, including China, still dominate the game.
"When it comes to game day, it's all up here, in the mind, it's a matter of how emotionally calm you can be," said Preiss.
And that's saying something when the ball is coming at you from just nine feet away at upwards of 90 miles an hour.
By the way, if you are interested in joining Scott Preiss' table tennis club, you can contact him, Scott "The Ping Pong Man" Preiss, on the Pikes Peak Ping Pong Club Facebook page.