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End of an era as Mary retires

PUBLISHED: 11:46 29 May 2008 | UPDATED: 08:59 13 July 2010

Mary Sawyer with young table tennis players.

Mary Sawyer with young table tennis players.

The Star Paving Services North Norfolk Table Tennis League has seen the the end of an era.

After more than a decade of hard work, Mary Sawyer has retired from the north Norfolk junior coaching section, but the septuagenarian will play on in the league.

The Star Paving Services North Norfolk Table Tennis League has seen the the end of an era.

After more than a decade of hard work, Mary Sawyer has retired from the north Norfolk junior coaching section, but the septuagenarian will play on in the league.

Tributes included one from Alex Murdoch, chairman of the English Table Tennis Association and Veterans' English Table Tennis Society.

He said: “Her contribution to table tennis in the Norfolk area has been outstanding, helping and encouraging young people to play our great sport.

“These youngsters are the next generation of players and potential officials. Her work in this area has contributed towards ensuring that table tennis is played now and in the future.

“Mary plays regularly in VETTS events, has participated in Veterans' World and European Championships, represents her county and is a member of a team in the Veterans' Women's British League. Many thanks to Mary from us all.”

She was presented with a clock on behalf of the league at the annual meeting and a special thank-you night was held on her home turf at North Walsham Sports Centre, where she was presented with an engraved photo frame and more flowers.

On both occasions, tributes and thanks for all her hard work flowed thick and fast.

League chairman Chris Pooley commented: “Mary has made the greatest contribution to the North Norfolk League in the last 15 or so years. She has become European Veterans' silver medallist and has also been teaching and bringing on the youngsters since 1994.

“She has decided to call it a day on the coaching front, but she still lives and breathes table tennis.”

League president John Vaughan added: “Mary is a very special person. She is one of life's givers, one who willingly contributes wherever she is and in whatever she does. Because of this, table tennis in the area has benefited enormously.

“I've lost count of the number of youngsters who have gained coaching assessment awards. Mary's also a very good table tennis player.”

Joe Turner, chairman of North Walsham Sports Centre, said she was a wonderful example to the youngsters and what she had done was phenomenal.

Mike Brooks, North Walsham Sports Centre manager, told her: “I don't know if the young people realise how lucky they have been to have you as their tutor. The skills they have learnt have been tremendous.”

Mary's incredible table tennis career, which included her helping the England over-70s ladies' team

win gold at last year's inaugural International Veterans' Team Championships and saw her as one of the regional finalists in the BBC's Unsung Sporting Heroes, will continue. She will still be part of the Alpha line-up next season.

Her final coaching session in charge saw badges from the Dunlop Skills Awards Scheme being awarded to her final crop of rising stars.

Receiving the prestigious and highest Masters badge were Matt Robinson, Tom Baldock-Yaxley, Jay Gardner, Jamie Carter and Richard Wilkinson, while Daniel Smith, Naomi Myhill, Jasmine Myhill, Francesca Bennett and Jack Wardle received the Matchplayer award.

Michael Webb, Jamie Collyer, Ryan Bullock and Will Gray were all presented with the Players badge, with Jacob Bennett and Josh Webb picking up the Improvers award.

The coaching section at North Walsham, which still has over 20 pupils willing to learn each week, will continue, with Phil Mole taking over the reins.

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