(By Gary Curreri)
Table tennis enthusiasts showcase their sport in ‘Butterfly’ tourney
Santiago Garcia’s vocal cords can sometimes get a workout when he has a racket in his hand and a tough opponent at the other end of the table.
“I do all I can,” said the 14-year-old Garcia, a freshman at Franklin Academy of Pembroke Pines . “If I have to shout, I’ll shout. If it helps me win, I’ll do it.”
Garcia was one of more than 140 competitors in the recent Butterfly Tournament at the Broward Table Tennis Club in Davie . He’s played two years but has earned a rating of 1,885 during that time.
According to the USA Table Tennis organization, that tournament rating places him between above average (1,700-1,800) and expert (2,000).
The Butterfly event drew enthusiasts of the sport from Davie, Fort Lauderdale , Coral Springs, Plantation, Margate, North Lauderdale , Hollywood, Tamarac, Weston and other surrounding communities.
The Broward Table Tennis Club utilizes 19 tables and hosts tournaments every two months or so. It is also home to two large international tournaments in September and December. Those showcases attract in excess of 200 players.
“I can have fun and exercise at the same time. It is a really hard sport,” Garcia said.
Dylita Maharaj, of North Lauderdale, has played table tennis since age 6. The sophomore at Florida Atlantic University and 2016 graduate of Coconut Creek High School enjoys what the sports has to offer.
“I like the adrenaline rush and fighting hard for every point,” said the 20-year-old Maharaj, who is coached by her father Di, and table tennis hall-of-famer Terese Terranova. “You have so much energy and you just keep fighting to stay there.”
Terranova was a double gold medalist in table tennis at the 1988 (Seoul) and a bronze medalist at the 1992 (Barcelona) and 1996 (Atlanta) Paralympics Games. She was also a world champion and ranked No. 1 internationally for nine years.
“My biggest joy is the kids. We had those of ages 6-13 playing and there was great camaraderie. It’s great to see what these young people can become (in the sport),” said Terranova, a member of the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame and two national halls of fame. She said they have about 150 members at the local club who come from Kendall to north of Jupiter.
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