Players with Parkinson’s to compete at ITFF World Masters in Rome

Table tennis players Steve Morley and Agnes Jan will join 6K athletes July 6-14

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by Mary Chapman |

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For the first time, two table tennis players with Parkinson’s disease will represent the nonprofit ITTF Foundation at the ITFF World Masters Championships Rome 2024.

The players, Steve Morley and Agnes Jan, will join a record field of more than 6,000 athletes at the July 6-14 event at the Rome Exhibition Center, according to an article about the two players on Sportanddev, a global online platform for those who seek to use sport to achieve social, economic, and environmental objectives.

They were selected to participate through a raffle at the foundation’s 2023 World Parkinson’s Table Tennis Championships, an event to improve awareness of the potential health benefits of table tennis for those with Parkinson’s and to provide networking opportunities for patients and their families.

The Germany-based foundation, established in 2018 by the International Table Tennis Federation, seeks to promote and use the sport as a tool for global change. It also presents an annual World Table Tennis for Health Festival, held this year on Oct. 23-27 in Maizieres-les-Metz, France.

Forming a World Masters Championships team with two people with Parkinson’s promotes diversity and inclusion within the global table tennis community and aligns with the ITTF Group’s focus for this year and next. The move also aligns with the United Nations’ Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly the strategic goal that focuses on good health and well-being.

“Both have been living with Parkinson’s disease and have combated its symptoms through table tennis for years,” states the article. “They will showcase their spirit of resilience and determination to overcome health constraints on their way to the World Masters Rome 2024, demonstrating how the sport can break barriers and inspire others facing similar challenges.”

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Players hope to raise funds for travel, lodging, participation expenses

Both Morley and Jan seek to raise €3,000 (about $3,200) for travel, lodging, and participation expenses. “We call for everyone’s support to foster this good cause and contribute to positive social change through table tennis by donating to these two players on their journey to the World Masters in Rome!” the article states.

Morley, from Scotland, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2018 and has “transformed” his life through table tennis, a sport in which two to four players use paddles to hit a lightweight ball back and forth across a table. After a 40-year hiatus, he returned to the sport in 2021 to help manage symptoms, the first of which included a lack of arm swing when walking. He plays five days weekly, which has improved his physical well-being and provided social connections.

“His dedication shines through his participation in various competitions for Parkinson’s or non-Parkinson’s players, including the Scottish Parkinson’s International Open and the ITFF Parkinson’s World Championships in Crete,” the article notes. “Now, aiming for the ITFF World Masters Rome representing the ITFF Foundation, he is ready to demonstrate how table tennis can change lives.”

A retired teacher, Jan joined her husband’s table tennis club last January — four years after being diagnosed with the progressive neurodegenerative disease — and began playing three times weekly for at least two hours. She noticed immediate improvement in movement and a reduced need for medication. The sport has “opened new horizons” for the Austria resident who is also a breast cancer survivor, allowing her to manage her condition and engage with the wider world.

“Competing in the World Parkinson’s Table Tennis Championships in 2023, Agnes won two silver medals, boosting her confidence and determination to continue the sport, slow the progression of her disease, and make friends worldwide,” the article notes. “Now, she is preparing for the ITFF World Masters Championships Rome 2024, aiming to inspire others with Parkinson’s and raise awareness of early diagnosis and treatment.”