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Jimmy Butler qualified for Halmstad by winnig the 2015 ITTF-North America Cup Photo By: Thorsten Gohl

Two Decades, Two Careers Later, Appearance Number Two for American

Two Decades, Two Careers Later, Appearance Number Two for American
Courtesy of ITTF

A debut in 1992 in Ho Chi Minh City, his one and only appearance to date; now 23 years later Jimmy Butler returns to action. He is the North American representative at the Liebherr 2015 Men’s World Cup, which starts in the Swedish city of Halmstad on Friday October 16th.

The 44 year old qualified by virtue of winning the ITTF-North America Cup earlier in the year in Markham, Toronto.

It is a quite remarkable return to the top flight for a player whose career is one of the most unusual in sport; it could be regarded as two careers.

Diagnosed with Scoliosis 
“I was diagnosed with scoliosis in the seventh grade; muscular tightness causes scoliosis, so I was born with very tight muscles”, explained Jimmy Butler. “Playing professional table tennis with scoliosis and tight muscles exasperated the situation quickly; at age 28 I was hurting very bad and retired from table tennis.”

After competing in the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992 and then in Atlanta in 1996, three years later in 1999 it appeared that the American’s table tennis career was over.

Arthritic Symptoms 
“I was limping, I had arthritic symptoms throughout my body”, added Jim Butler. “I couldn’t sit without pain, my digestive track shut down due to the pressure my muscles were putting on my stomach area; I felt 90 years old in a 27 year old body.”

A feature of scoliosis is that the spine is bent, as opposed to being straight.

Kenny Owens
“After seeing many medical specialists I found a man named Kenny Owens who knew what was wrong with me”, continued Jimmy Butler. “His son was the 2001 US Men’s Singles champion and a team mate of mine; Kenny felt sorry for me and took me under his wing.”

Treatment started, the long road to the second career began.

Kenny said my muscles were as hard as a rock causing my joints and my organs to dysfunction”, explained Jimmy Butler. “The only way to reverse the problem was to push into all my major muscles from head to toe; the first two years I had therapists pushing into my muscles with their elbows and their thumbs.”

Innovation 
However, there was no rapid improvement.

“Although this gave me some relief it was wearing out all the therapists and my progress was too slow”, continued Jimmy Butler. “Kenny Owens and I decided we would have to build a machine that manually loosens muscles; we built a homemade mechanical electrical device that pushes into muscles.”

Innovative and the innovation succeeded.

“It was the game changer for me and I would spend the next eight years using this device anywhere from eight to 14 hours each day”, said Jimmy Butler. “I basically lived on this device except for working for Kenny some hours during the day.”

Playing Again 
Fitter the lure of the table tennis arena returned.

“This concept not only brought me out of my painful condition but got me well enough to play table tennis again”, explained Jimmy Butler. “ My table tennis career stopped way sooner than I wanted it to at age 27, so getting my health back gave me the desire to play more again; although my level of play is not what it once was to this point of my return to the sport, I’m having more fun now than I ever did before.”

May I suggest North American champion is a most worthy level?

The Story of Jimmy Butler

Age Range 
Fun and success and the very extreme from one year ago when 14 year old Kanak Jha was the North American representative; in consecutive years, the United States can surely lay claim to have fielded the youngest ever player in the Men’s World Cup and the oldest!

Jean-Michel Saive 
Equally, competing in the Men’s World Cup over 23 after making a first appearance is only matched by Belgium’s Jean-Michel Saive. He made his debut in 1989 in Nairobi, his most recent in 2013 in Verviers; a span of 24 years, one more than Jimmy Butler.

The only other player to span two decades is Sweden’s Jan-Ove Waldner; he made his Men’s World Cup debut in 1983 in Barbados, his last in 2004 in Hangzhou, a span of 21 years.

Not Born 
Understandably Jimmy Butler is the only player on duty in Halmstad who competed in 1992 in Ho Chih Min City; the year China’s Ma Wenge beat Korea’s Kim Taeksoo in the final.

Also when he last played three players who are on duty at the Liebherr 2015 World Cup were not even born!

Japan’s Koki Niwa was born in 1994, Sweden’s Anton Källberg and China’s Fan Zhendong in 1997.

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