Never too old for a smash or two

Fighting spirit

Battlers: Dean Schoppe (left) and Matt Fogarty. DH Photo

Pitted against the Korean pair of Gun Woo Cho and Yeon Seong Yoo, whose combined age is less than Shoppe’s (52), the Americans didn’t stand much of a chance. But what stood out was their unflinching desire to compete at the highest level.

Fogarty-Schoppe lost 5-21, 8-21 but by the end of the match, they had won many admirers who posed with them for photographs and collected their autographs.

“You can accomplish anything at any time of your career,” Schoppe told reporters. And it wasn’t just for effect. His partner Fogarty, a five-time US Junior National champion, won a Senior title when he was 43 years, and went on to claim three more titles. While it might be a poor reflection on the quality of the game in the US, it doesn’t take anything away from Fogarty.

A physician by practice in the US Navy, Fogarty trains during leisure time and on weekends. “I basically deal with the mental trauma the soldiers go through during or after the war,” said Fogarty.

Schoppe and Fogarty, 53, came together in 1998 and won the Brazilian International title in 1999. The next year, they won the US Nationals. This is the third time the duo is playing in the World Championship, and it has never progressed beyond the first round.

Asked if they were under any pressure playing much younger opponents, Schoppe said it was actually the other way round. “The pressure is on the younger guys, because who wants to lose to a blind old guy!” quipped Schoppe, who has vision in only his left eye.

“It’s a problem from birth,” said Schoppe who plays with a patch covering his right eye to protect it from light. “My right eye is light sensitive and when exposed to light, it affects my vision. I see the shuttle like a postcard (two-dimensional), but that’s how I have been playing. People used to get wild losing to me even when I was young because they felt insulted losing to a ‘blind’ guy!” he noted.   
        
The US badminton association did its best to stop the two veterans from playing, but their never-say-die attitude has kept them going. “We were asked to quit because we were too old, but there is nothing in the rule book that stops us from playing just because we are old. One of the main reasons I am playing is to make a point to them,” stated Fogarty.

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