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Florida Golden Girls paddle the competition in pingpong tournaments

Margo Lindsay, 72, of Clearwater returns a serve while playing table tennis at the Long Center in Clearwater last week. She says the game is “good for the brain.”

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Margo Lindsay, 72, of Clearwater returns a serve while playing table tennis at the Long Center in Clearwater last week. She says the game is “good for the brain.”

CLEARWATER

Margo "the Magnificent'' Lindsay held the tiny orange ball in her hand and served a scorcher to Sari "Dutch Chopping Woman'' Kisbany. • Kisbany returned it hard over the 6-inch net to Al Palumbo, who smashed it to Nahed "Queen of the Nile'' Williams. She swung and missed as the plastic ball bounced away one day last week at the Long Center. • This was no friendly game of pingpong. It was serious table tennis by three-quarters of the Florida Golden Girls, a group of competitors who won 15 medals — five gold, six silver and four bronze — at the 2008 Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah, last month.

Lindsay, 72, Kisbany, 78, and Williams, 66, are members of the Sunrise Table Tennis Club, which plays at the Long Center and four other facilities in Pinellas County. The players trained at least four days a week in preparation for the World Senior Games. • The fourth Golden Girl, Sadako Tobias, 76, lives in Ocala and could not make the practice at the Long Center.

"They're named the Golden Girls because whenever they go to the World Games, they come back with medals,'' said Palumbo, the Sunrise Table Tennis Club's program director. "They're the ones to beat.''

Players who want to be Golden Girls must first win gold at the local, state and national levels.

"You must have fast reactions,'' Kisbany said.

Though based in Clearwater, the Golden Girls truly are an international group: Williams is from Egypt, Kisbany is from the Netherlands, Lindsay is from the United States and Tobias is from Japan.

"Table tennis is actually bigger in other countries,'' Lindsay said.

Indeed. While she started at 60, other members began playing the game seriously much earlier, Kisbany at 16 and Williams at 10.

"I love the speed of it and the coordination,'' said Williams, who was a champion in Egypt.

The game is "also good for the brain,'' Lindsay said.

Kisbany is so good at table tennis as well as golf that she was named 2006 Florida Senior Female Athlete of the Year and was invited to Tallahassee to receive her award and meet Gov. Charlie Crist.

The Golden Girls' next tournament will be the 2008 Florida State Senior Games, scheduled for Dec. 6-14 in Cape Coral.

"I think we'll win gold,'' Lindsay said.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at schulte@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4153.

Fast facts

About the club

The Sunrise Table Tennis Club is a nonprofit organization that, together with the Clearwater Parks and Recreation Department, offers a number of low-cost programs and tournaments for all ages.

For more information, visit www.sunrisetabletennis.com.

Florida Golden Girls paddle the competition in pingpong tournaments 11/14/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 15, 2008 7:25pm]
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