There are not many people in the world that can say they’ve spent their life travelling the world playing table-tennis, but George Evans, of Rhoose Point, is one.
Evans, who turns 86 next month, has competed in China and North Korea, as well as places closer to home like Hungary and Germany. Of course, these are only a few of many.
Before Evans started his successful table-tennis career, he was a keen footballer and even managed to get a cap for Wales u18s in a 3-1 loss to England as well as trials for Everton.
The former British National Veterans champions spoke about counting his medals at his home only a few days ago:
“The other day I was out walking, and I met this fella, he said ‘how many awards have you had? How many medals?’ I thought, ‘I’m not sure. When I go home, I’ll check’”, Evans explained.
“I had 28 medals. 28 awards. That was including two little Barry ones, where I won the senior and junior.
“I’ve played in North Korea – not many people go there. I’ve played twice in China, I’ve played in Japan, I’ve played in lots and lots of places. I won a European title down in Prague.
“It was 28 titles altogether and I had never checked it out before. That was alright.”
Evans also spoke about who his favourite player was when he was competing in the game. His answer was Chester Barnes. Barnes was a former English champion and unfortunately passed away last month.
“His name was Chester Barnes. He packed in table tennis. He went to work for Martin Pipe, the racehorse owner.
“He used to be up at Cheltenham, and I was invited up a couple of times.
“He used to say, ‘George do me a favour, don’t talk table tennis now, I’m not into table tennis – I’m into horseracing,’ Evans said with a chuckle.
“I had to stifle my table tennis enthusiasm. He was a great player he was – young British champion.”
After an impressive display in 1979 at the World Championships in North Korea, Evans was invited to play in the Bundesliga in Germany.
He believed playing there was the real deal.
“Living in Germany and playing was totally different. It was so professional compared with around here.
“We all got together before the match and you had like a passport. You played the match and then after the match, you all sat on a big table and had a meal and stuff like that. It was really nice.
“It was a nice number of years. I’ve got no regrets about all the time I spent with ping pong.”
Despite his age, Evans still has a huge passion for the sport and enjoys sharing his knowledge onto younger generations when the environment allows it.
As a result, Evans was awarded the British Empire Medal in late 2019 and spoke about how he’s looking forward to eventually receiving it.
“I haven’t had it yet because of all of this. Now it’s starting to drop off, I’m hoping now that they will give me the medal.
“British Empire Medal is quite an honour for me. It’s for coaching in the schools in the valley area.
“Alun Cairns, the local MP, nominated me. He had been to the club in the past, so he knew all about the club. I have a photograph with all the children and him on it.
“(Mark) Drakeford, the Welsh Minister, and lots of people that I heard off but didn’t know – they were all congratulating me, and I didn’t even know what it was.”
George also received the Sports Star of the Year award at the Bro Radio Community Awards in 2020.