Published: 00:01, 04 March 2018
Pamela Butcher has booked her flight to Las Vegas, not to visit the city’s hundreds of casinos, but to defend her over 85s' world champion table tennis title.
The 88-year-old, who has won 13 gold medals in veterans’ singles and doubles competitions since she started taking part in them in the 1980s, will fly out to America in June for the World Veterans' Championship. It takes place from Sunday, June 18, to Saturday, June 24.
She is truly an ambassador for the sport, and was made an MBE by HRH Prince Charles in last year’s honours for her services to table tennis.
Back in her 20s, Mrs Butcher, of Denesway, Meopham, was playing tennis, at AEI tennis club, in Kings Farm, Gravesend, when one day she was invited to have a table tennis game by a ping-pong team’s captain.
The former Dartford council housing allocation officer subsequently joined the team where she played until she put her paddle down to have a family.
At the age of 35, Mrs Butcher took up the sport again as her work place, North West Kent College where she was an admin officer, had a table tennis set.
Since then she has travelled the globe playing the sport she loves and winning European and world titles.
Mrs Butcher, who plays at Meopham Table Tennis Club, has owned the same paddle for 40 years. She said: “I was very proud and excited to receive an MBE.
“My husband, Roy, who had Parkinson’s, was still alive then so I was very pleased to be able to tell him. “Prince Charles was charming.
“He said to me ‘are you still playing’ and I said yes and he said ‘Fantastic, but I don’t think I will take you on, though’.
“I have been trying to promote it for young and old people.
“All the time I have been playing I have been trying to encourage others to play the sport.”
Mrs Butcher said her favourite competition was in China because of her success and the prominence of the sport there.
She added: “I won two gold medals there in the singles and doubles competitions.
“When I came home my flight had been upgraded to first class. I think the Chinese authorities did it.
“I have always enjoyed hitting a ball about. If you do a good shot you just feel good.
“I don’t know how long I can keep playing. “It’s been a great life. I’m pleased I got involved in table tennis again.”