Martyn Symons won’t be just Wales’ only player at the UK’s first Ping Pong Parkinson’s UK National Championship later this year – he is also one of a group of individuals raising awareness and encouraging people with the neurological disease to take up the game as part of their physical and mental wellbeing.
Martyn, who was born and grew up in New Tredegar, has been registered as a Welsh representative at the tournament, which is scheduled to take place at the St. Neots Table Tennis Club in Cambridgeshire on 21 August 2021.
Martyn has played table tennis on and off for almost 25 years – starting at a youth club in New Tredegar.
Family and work have since taken him to live in various parts of England, but wherever that was he has always found a table tennis club. Playing in the Cambridgeshire, York, Selby and Tamworth leagues, to name but a few.
He is currently an active table tennis playing member of the Phoenix Sports and Social Club in Rotherham.
Martyn stopped playing table tennis between 2014-2016 due to ill health and later being diagnosed with arthritis in both hips, which resulted in a total right hip replacement.
In 2017, Martyn was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and his physio suggested that he should take up playing table tennis again, as the movements were perfect for his physical and mental health.
A series of other health issues intervened and indeed forced Martyn’s early retirement as a maths teacher, but in 2020 he was able to start looking into various Parkinson’s classes that would help him keep physically and mentally active.
He ended up joining weekly boxing and Pilates classes and coffee mornings.
“On my very first visit to a boxing class, we began talking about table tennis and I was introduced to a gentleman called Andrew Cassy and the Ping Pong Parkinson’s movement, which had originated in America and was coming across to Europe and the UK,” says Martyn.
The conversation quickly turned to the new Parkinson’s World Table Tennis Championships [PWTTC] that had started in the US.
Over 60 players from 15 countries had come together in Pleasantville (a village in Westchester County, New York State, about 30 miles north of Manhattan) to play in the first ITTF PWTTC in 2019.
It was such a success that the next Parkinson’s World Table Tennis Championship, which was originally scheduled to take place in Berlin in September 2020 (but had to be rescheduled for September 2021 due to Covd-19), has attracted over 130 players from 25 countries.
There is also the Ping Pong Parkinson’s German Masters, which is open to all nationalities and scheduled to take place in Nordhorn, Germany, prior to the PWTTC, so the game is really taking off!
Martyn is a member of Ping Pong Parkinson’s UK, who are at the forefront of raising awareness and recruiting players and volunteers throughout the UK.
“When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I really thought that my playing days were over – but far from it, because there are enormous physical and mental health benefits from playing table tennis for Parkinson’s sufferers too, and Ping Pong Parkinson’s is rapidly growing in popularity,” adds Martyn.
“After all these years of playing table tennis in clubs and regional leagues, I’m proud to be the Welsh representative at the forthcoming Ping Pong Parkinson’s UK National Championship, which is the first tournament of its kind in the UK.
“As Irony would have it, who would have thought that being diagnosed with an incurable disease would afford me the opportunity to fulfil a childhood dream to proudly wear a shirt representing my beloved home country.
“I hope to inspire more Welsh players to come and play at future tournaments, and for more people with Parkinson’s to take up the game at whatever level they feel comfortable.
“I’ve moved around a lot since I left New Tredegar at the age of seventeen, and I’ve lived in several different parts of the UK. In recent years I’ve also suffered from poor health, there is one constant that has always been there in my life, table tennis.
“Wherever you are, you can always find a table tennis club close by, it’s like a reliable old friend that is always there.
“When I was first made aware of Ping Pong Parkinson’s, I saw it as an opportunity to be part of something astonishing at a time when I didn’t believe that such options were even remotely possible.”
More information on Parkinson’s Table Tennis UK can be found at facebook.com/PDTTUK.
Alternatively you can contact Martyn at firstname.lastname@example.org
And good luck to Martyn in the UK’s first Ping Pong Parkinson’s UK National Championship in August!