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The Comeback Kid Almost Does it Again at the National Over-40 Table Tennis Tour

The final stage of the 14-stop National Over-40 Table Tennis Tour Championships was played this weekend at Pleasantville's Westchester Table Tennis Center. While competitors fought it out in the Over 50, Over 60, and Over 70 year old divisions, all eyes were on the main table as two-time U.S. Olympian Jimmy Butler stepped in for the quarterfinal round in the competitive Over 40 division.

Above: Jimmy Butler (right in yellow) and Shao Yu (left in blue) during their quarterfinal match. Credit: Warren Rosenberg

A table tennis prodigy, Butler began sweeping up National Championships in his age group at nine years old, repeating in National Championships at the age of 11, 13, 15 and 17. He went on to be selected as a member of the U.S.A. team in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games. In 1995, in between his Olympic appearances, Butler helped the U.S. Team capture its first ever World Cup medal.

In 1999, Butler's career came to an end as symptoms of severe scoliosis and arthritis wracked his body. He remained out of the game, in chronic pain, and pursuing many years of rehabilitation. In 2012, Butler began his comeback after an almost 9-year absence. In 2014, the comeback was complete as Butler won the U.S. National Championship, 21 years after his last Nationals win.

In this afternoon's quarterfinal round of the National Over-40 Table Tennis Tour, Jimmy Butler stepped up to the table to face Shao Yu, a member of the 2009 and 2010 U.S. Men's National Teams and a coach at the New York Indoor Sport Club. Things looked bleak as Yu took a 3 games to nothing lead in the best-of-seven quarterfinal round. Butler fought back to stay alive winning the fourth game and, then again, the fifth game.

As the sixth game progressed, it looked as if Butler might be on his way to, once again, staging a comeback. But, it was not to be. Yu went on to win the match and compete in the championship finals, eventually succumbing to the relentless play of Yanjun Goa who claimed the tournament title with a 4-1 victory over Yu. Butler did prevail in claiming third place with a 4-0 victory of Xuxiang Li in the consolation match.

Above: Tournament Champion, Yanjun Goa.

Winners of the 14 Tour stops qualify to compete in the international 19th World Veterans Championships to be held in Las Vegas, NV, this coming June.

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