Orlando’s Chi Chan Becomes First Table Tennis Player to Win SSG Athlete of the Year
Sunshine State Games history was made at the epicenter of Florida Table Tennis, the Simpson Park Community Center, in Lakeland Sunday, when Chi Chan, of Orlando, became the first table tennis player to receive a Sunshine State Games Athlete of the Year Award.
Chan (pictured at right with SSG Table Tennis Sport Director, Brad Woodington) celebrated being named the 48th SSG Athlete of the Year, since 2000, by winning silver medals in the Senior 50%2B and the Open Division.
While Chan claims to be playing for fun, as he’s become older and wiser, he has enough of a competitive edge, and skill, to play in championships matches and often times win.
Both of the championships matches, against Edis Osmanagic, of Jacksonville, in the Open Division, and Winston Dowridge, also of Jacksonville, in the Senior 50%2B Division, went to five games.
Dowridge won two gold medals and a silver over the weekend and will compete in the 2023 National Senior Games, in Pittsburgh, PA, in July.
“In the Open championship, my opponent gave me some challenges,” Chan said. “I play what I call a chunky, funky style. He was consistent enough to score on my style of play. I play a lot against Winston and we always have good matches.”
After playing competitively during his teen years, Chan went through the phase of life many athletes age 50 and over experience.
“Life happens,” he said.
He picked up playing competitively again 22 years ago when he moved from New York City to Florida. His first Sunshine State Games Championships came in 2010 when he was an gold medalist in the Under 2300 division. He now plays at a variety of tournaments around the state just to “support other clubs and athletes around the state.”
Also celebrating a championship was the SSG Taekwondo Grand Champion for World Class Black Belt Sparring, Luis Espinosa, a member and instructor at 1AF Taekwondo Academy, in Fort Lauderdale. Espinosa won the Senior Heavyweight Gold Medal, to qualify for the Grand Champion bracket, and defeated Wilmer Bernandez, of Cape Coral, in the championship bracket, of all senior divisions, in the final bout of the day.
Now 23 years old, and a third degree Black Belt, Espinosa has been training in Taekwondo since he was three years old. He was a member of the 2016 USA Taekwondo Junior National Team that represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canada.
For Sunshine State Games results, please visit www.sunshinestategames.com/results.
The Sunshine State Games wraps up a busy month of June next weekend with the Water Polo Championships, at the Rosen Aquatic Center, in Orlando. A total of 57 teams have registered to compete in age groups ranging in ages from 12 and Under Mixed to Men’s and Women’s Open Divisions.
Since April, over 5,000 of Florida’s Finest Amateur Athletes have competed in 17 different sports around the State of Florida. The 2023 Sunshine State Games Polk County Festival was presented in conjunction with Visit Central Florida Sports.
The Sunshine State Games is an annual Olympic-style Sports Festival for amateur athletes of all ages. Now in its 44th year, dating back to 1980, the Sunshine State Games is the longest continuously-running State Games in the U.S. The 2023 Sunshine State Game is held in conjunction with the Gainesville Sports Commission, Central Florida’s Polk County Sports Marketing, Visit Lauderdale, Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor & Convention Bureau (VCB) and Earl Enterprises.