The human spirit is alive and endures, no matter the age. POV’s “Ping Pong: aims to show you that, “You’re Never Too Old to Go for the Gold.” While they aren’t showcasing the lively tenants of an Indian hotel, they are showing that older people are exactly as alive and sassy as we saw in that movie.

For those still young, it gives you hope about growing old. Life doesn’t stop at age 75. Sometimes that’s when the best things can begin.

Competitors in the Over-80 World Table Tennis Championship Show an Uncommon Drive to Win in the Face of Old Age

Call this old age, extreme edition: Seven players with 620 years between them compete in the Over 80 World Table Tennis Championships in China’s Inner Mongolia.

Who’s Involved?

“British players Terry, 81, who has been given a week to live, and Les, 91, a weightlifter and poet, are going for the gold. Inge, 89, from Germany, has used table tennis to paddle her way out of dementia. And Texan Lisa, 85, is playing for the first time. Ping Pong is a wonderfully unusual story of hope, regret, friendship, ambition, love—and sheer human tenacity in the face of aging and mortality.  Anson Hartford and Hugh Hartford’s Ping Pong has its national broadcast premiere on Monday, Sept. 9, 2013 at 10 p.m. (check local listings), on the award-winning PBS series POV (Point of View), American television’s longest-running independent documentary series. The film will stream on POV’s website,, from Sept. 10-Sept. 14, 2013. Visit the website for embeddable video, art, press release,s and educational guides and to find out what’s happened in the players’ lives since the cameras stopped rolling.”

Ping Pong Premiere Date

Monday, September 9, 2013 on PBS – POV edition.

Ping Pong Competitors

  • Lisa Modlich of Houston, a relative newcomer at 85, has led an exciting life. She was raised in an aristocratic Viennese family and fought in the French Resistance before emigrating to the U.S. She is now married to Joachim, 25 years her junior, and is one of the game’s fiercest competitors.
  • British player Terry Donlon is 81 and has cancer. He plays wearing a nebulizer for shortness of breath, earning him a reputation as a “walking miracle.” Now, he’s been given one week to live.
  • Fellow Brit Les D’Arcy, 89, is Terry’s doubles partner. Les is a renowned advocate for the elderly, known for his determined—some would say fanatical—pursuit of activities such as weightlifting, triathlon and shot-put.
  • Swede Rune Forsberg, 85, an archrival of Les, sees the 2010 competition as his last chance for gold.
  • Dorothy DeLow of Australia may not be the best player, but she’s a legend in her own right. At 100, she is the game’s oldest competitive player.
  • Ursula Bihl, 89, of Germany, won the world championship three years earlier and almost gave up on going to the 2010 championship.
  • German Inge Hermann, 89, ended up in the dementia ward of a nursing home after her husband’s death 15 years earlier. Introduced to table tennis as therapy, she literally paddled her way back to physical and mental wellbeing, and today she manages the nursing home and teaches computer science classes. In Ping Pong, she’s going to her first international competition.

Why to Watch

“Will the Terry survive his singles matches and play to win the doubles gold? Will Les live up to his extravagant reputation? Will Rune get his gold medal—and vindication? Will Dorothy continue to prove you’re never too old? Will Lisa sweep all before her with her youthful attitude? Will Ursula retain her championship? Will Inge win her first medal and make her nursing home proud? Ping Pong discovers uncommon stories of people playing for something far greater than gold medals. They are playing for their lives. “We wanted to make a film about the tenacity of the human spirit more than about any sports title,” says director Hugh Hartford. “There’s a message for all of us in this.” Adds producer Anson Hartford, Hugh’s brother, ‘At the beginning we thought we were making a film about what life is like toward the end of our lives, but Ping Pong is much more about living than about dying. It is more about love and friendship than loss and death.'”

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