By James Somper
An octogenarian dubbed the UK’s oldest ping pong player said she’ll keep playing the sport until she dies.
Formidable OAP Pam Butcher claims table tennis helps her feel as fit as she did at 20 and keeps Alzheimer’s and arthritis at bay.
The widowed great gran-of-four started playing table tennis in her 20s and has no plans to stop the sport – despite recently celebrating her 89th birthday.
Pam was a former world and UK champion in her age category, over-85s, until last year and hopes to regain her title at the European Championships in Budapest later this year.
The former housing officer and mum-of-two, from Meopham, Kent, said: “I’ve always liked knocking a ball about.
“I love the social side. When I play abroad I meet lots of friends, it’s a very cheap sport to play and it’s good exercise.
“It keeps me mentally alert as well as active.
“Age is no barrier, it’s just a number.”
Pam loves the fact her treasured sport has taken her all over the world and let her meet countless friends.
While she played table tennis in her 30s, it was only when she was in her 40s she started playing competitively.
Now, at 89, Pam has won 30 medals at major championships and routinely faces off players younger than her.
And she said ping pong has allowed her to keep not just physically fit and healthy but mentally in check too.
She said: “Table tennis has let me see the parts world which I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
“It’s taken me to Canada, America, Japan, China and Brazil.
“I was having a knock around one lunch time and some colleagues asked me to play in their team, they thought I was pretty reasonable.
“From then onward I started to compete in their league and it all developed from there.
“All the players I play against are lovely and I enjoy playing with a broad variety of people.
“It makes me move a lot and to bend and stretch, it definitely helps my concentration and has almost certainly kept Alzheimer’s and dementia from the door.
“My joints and bones are great, I don’t move as well as I did but I move well enough to enjoy a game and beat players half my age.”
Pam’s skills with a paddle have even received Royal approval – as she received an MBE for services to the sport.
And now, with her 90th birthday on the horizon next year, she’s determined to keep her hobby up for as long as she can.
She said: “When I went to receive my MBE, Prince Charles asked me if I was still playing.
“I said yes and he said that he thought it was marvellous that I was but said that he didn’t want to take me on that day.
“I’ve started playing other games and I always trying to learn new things. I like to stay alert and fit.
“To anyone my age, I’d say ‘keep going as long as you can.”