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Table tennis legend Thelma "Tybie" Thall shows talent in Senior Games

June 09--There are not many individuals who may call themselves legends within a game, however Thelma "Tybie" Thall sure can.

The woman everybody calls Tybie is really a legend in the sport of table tennis in which she's gathered a Hall of Fame career during the past 50-plus years and is still going strong at age 89.Tybie, who was inducted into the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame in 1980, was in Greeley on Friday to Take Part in the mixed doubles competition in the Rocky Mountain Senior Games with her son-in-law Rob Feinstein.

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It's a tune-up of types for Tybie, who came to Colorado from her home in Scottsdale, Ariz., to clinic with her daughter Marilyn -- a Centennial resident -- before both visit Cleveland to compete in the National Senior Olympics in July.

Naturally, winning names is nothing fresh to Thall, who's a pioneer in the sport. At only 23 years of age, Tybie and her partner Dick Miles -- a fellow Hall of Fame member -- were the first Americans to win the world mixed doubles championship in table tennis when they captured the title in 1948.Annually after winning the world combined doubles title, Tybie helped the American team win the world team championship in Stockholm, Sweden for the next and final time at table tennis history.

It is a feat that Tybie doesn't think will ever occur again due to the Chinese domination in the sport. "I'm positive I don't believe the American women could possibly win it," Tybie said.

Apart from her induction to the Hall of Fame, Tybie received the Lifetime Achievement Award by USA Table Tennis in 2005, the Maximum award given in the sport of table tennis in the Usa.She's always been a trendsetter. Tybie was the first woman in the background of her high school in Ohio to earn a varsity letter in tennis.

Of course, table tennis is a sport that runs in her loved ones. Her older sister Leah Thall is a Hall of Fame player. As her daughter said, Tybie and Leah "were to table tennis what the Williams sisters are to women's tennis today.

"Her sister acquired 31 national titles in her career ping pong table top. Tybie and her sister are the only Americans to win the doubles title."And there are a few good players," Tybie said.

Her sister also helped change the history of American and Chinese relations. After competing in the world championships in Japan in 1971, Leah and the rest of the U.S. team received a surprise invitation to play at China against their winners after Leah fulfilled the Chinese Prime Minister the evening before.

The next year, president Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger began talks to Begin trading with China."They predicted it ping-pong diplomacy," Tybie said.

But what Tybie is doing now for the sport is just as impressive. She's just one of its great ambassadors who proceeds to play all around the nation despite ailments including fingers from all of the tennis and table tennis she played over recent years."But I don't have the time to pay attention to it," the feisty Tybie explained.She also serves as an inspiration for other seniors at the game.

Among these will be Greeley's Nancy Ross. Ross, 74, said that Tybie is famous "all over the place" by those in the table tennis world and that she's served as inspiration for Ross.

Ross started playing in 1999 in what she called a "a second career" in table tennis. She began playing recreationally as a kid in her basement, but once she chose to get into it later in life.

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Despite battling rheumatoid arthritis, Ross has qualified for the National Senior Olympics six times and medaled three times."I am a competitive person, so I enjoy the competitiveness," Ross stated. "But mostly I enjoy the people. It's just a sport that is fun to perform. It's a sport you can play with your whole life and I like that you don't ever need to give up this. Look at Tybie, she is still currently playing. So that's the reason why I continue playing."