USATT Magazine reports…
On any Monday or Friday evening at the Tidewater Table Tennis Club in the Kempsville Recreation Center in Virginia Beach you’ll find Ulpiano Santo playing challenge matches. After a match or two, “Mr. Santo,” as he’s respectfully referred to at the club, will match wits with Celus Weeks, at checkers. Nothing unusual, except for the fact that Mr. Santo was 98 years young on April 3.
Not only has Mr. Santo been blessed with a long and fruitful life, but he has had a long and distinguished career in table tennis; he has won 11 U.S. National titles – three times in the over 70 event, three times in the over 75 and five times in the over 80. In every event he played, he was, in his words “always the oldest.” He played in the over 80s for 11 years. Since no event existed for players age 90 and over, he retired from active U.S. National play since, in his words, he “could no longer compete with the youngsters.” He still maintains a 1300+ rating.
In addition to playing U.S. National events, Mr. Santo competed in the U.S. Senior Olympics and in the World Senior Championships – in 1990 in Baltimore, where he and his partner won the over 80 doubles; 1992 in Dublin, Ireland where he won a silver medal in the over 80 singles and in 1994 in Melbourne, Australia where he and his partner won the consolations in the over 80 doubles.
Born in Leyte in the Philippines, Mr. Santo’s career in table tennis began during his service in the U.S. Navy, which he joined in 1929. For the most part, the game was a hobby for him and he only played while his ship was in port. Following his retirement from the Navy in 1956, he took up the sport in earnest and began competing in tournaments.
During his career, Mr. Santo met and competed against some of the legends of table tennis, such as Lazlo Bellak, Sol Schiff and Jimmy McClure.
When asked about the contribution table tennis has made to his longevity and good health he said, “Table tennis has been good for me, especially for my legs, arms, reflexes, hand-eye coordination and eye peripheral vision which is why I’m still able to drive my car at age 98.”