Top of his game

Table tennis champion brings home gold and silver medals from the Texas Senior Games

Created date

May 23rd, 2019
Bob Armstrong plays table tennis every week at Eagle’s Trace. He recently competed in the Texas Senior Games in San Antonio.

Bob Armstrong plays table tennis every week at Eagle’s Trace. He recently competed in the Texas Senior Games in San Antonio.

When it comes to table tennis, Bob Armstrong’s never lost his competitive edge.

Bob recently traveled to San Antonio for the Texas Senior Games, playing in the 85–90 age bracket. He brought home the gold medal for singles play and the silver medal in the doubles competition.

It’s the unfolding chapter in his lifelong affinity for the sport.

“I grew up in Kentucky, and one year my dad’s office in Louisville flooded,” says Bob. “There was a Ping-Pong table at the office, and the water caused one corner of the plywood to buckle. My dad asked if he could have the table. He brought it home, patched it up, and put it in the attic where we’d play as often as we could.”

Bob was a nationally ranked table tennis player by the time he was 15.

“My dad took me to Chicago, where I played in a national table tennis tournament,” says Bob. “I made it to the semifinals and was ranked fourth in the nation in my age division.”

Military career

Bob served in the Air Force from 1952 to 1972, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was stationed with the 7405th Support Squadron in Wiesbaden, Germany, for three years before serving in Vietnam.

While in Wiesbaden, Bob won the United States Air Forces in Europe [USAFE] Recreation Games tournament at Hahn Air Base, adding to an already impressive list of titles, including Air Training Command champion, Alaskan Air Command champ in singles and doubles, and Armed Forces Champion of Alaska.

Athletic prowess runs through Bob’s family. His father Lowell competed in table tennis at the National Senior Games in the mid-1960s and won in his age bracket.

Tate Armstrong, Bob’s son, is an Olympic gold medalist who played for the United States men’s national basketball team at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Tate went on to play for the Chicago Bulls from 1977 to 1979.

“We enjoy sports,” says Bob, who also played tennis and competed once before in the Texas Senior Games. “I had to give up tennis last year because it got to be too much for my knees.”

Reconnecting with table tennis

When Bob moved to Eagle’s Trace, the Erickson Living community in West Houston, in March 2018, he rediscovered his affinity for table tennis.

“I’d just given up tennis when I moved to Eagle’s Trace, but I found this great group of residents who play table tennis every Friday afternoon,” says Bob. “There’s quite a difference between swinging a tennis racket and a table tennis paddle, but it didn’t take me long to get my head back into table tennis.”

Bob’s recent trip to the Texas Senior Games was the first time he’s competed in table tennis in over 20 years.

“It was a great experience,” he says. “My son and daughter were there to watch me play, so I enjoyed sharing that time with them. There was good camaraderie among the competitors, and it was just an overall fun weekend.”