Robbie Blair will pick up the bat for the first time since 2002.
Former table tennis rivals, Robbie Blair and Kerry Palmer, are teaming up for the World Masters Games in Auckland next month.
Kerry and Robbie went head-to-head in the 1978 New Zealand Table Tennis National Championship finals, with Kerry walking away with the title.
Robbie, 61, of Warkworth, will compete in the 60-plus singles, doubles and team categories in his second games after making the table tennis semi-finals in Melbourne in 2002.
He started playing table tennis at the Papatoetoe RSA when he was still a teenager, although most of his club days were spent at Manurewa.
By the end of 1972, he was seventh in NZ in the under-18 boys category.
He toured China with three other New Zealand players in 1975 to undertake two months of coaching during the China ping pong diplomacy era, set up to improve relations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States.
“The tour also included India, so it was a real eye- opener for a Papatoetoe kid who had never left the country before,” he says.
Robbie recalls not being able to use chopsticks properly and just wanting to order a steak.
He continued playing until 1979 with a season-best ranking of third in New Zealand in 1978 and a U18 boys singles title in 1973.
Although he toyed with the idea of taking up table tennis professionally, he eventually decided it wasn’t what he wanted to do and turned instead to tennis.
“Table tennis wasn’t social and the only way to make money was to go to a European club. I had already spent the best years of my life stuck inside training which is why I switched to something outdoors.”
Robbie will compete in the A grade 60-plus tennis singles, and will pair with Matthew Buchanan, of Kaipara Flats, in the B grade 50-plus men’s doubles.
Robbie already has two tennis masters medals to his name, with a silver in doubles and bronze in singles.
He has won club championship titles at both Papatoetoe and Warkworth, and still plays for Warkworth’s number one men’s team in singles and doubles.
“I want to continue to compete for as long as I can and the masters will be an opportunity to catch up with players from the past.”
He is also open to challenges from anyone who wants to practise table tennis with him at the Warkworth RSA, where he is the secretary-manager.