Historic career of golden girl of table tennis who celebrates 90th birthday
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015
A young girl’s love for table tennis turned into seven decades avidly playing the sport all over the globe. Edna Fletcher, of Gorleston, started playing table tennis at the age of 14-years-old and it became a lifelong passion.
Until her retirement, she won various world and European medals from veteran championships. Her service to the sport was crowned by being made an MBE in 2006.
Mrs Fletcher’s playing days was cut short at the age of 84, when a hip replacement forced her legendary playing career to stop. Six years on, Edna Fletcher has just celebrated her 90th birthday on September 20, and she is still active within the sport, running the Great Yarmouth Table Tennis League and coaching aspiring youngster’s.
She said: “I have been playing since 1940 and it has taken me all over the world. I’ve been to America, Australia – places I would never have gone to if it was not for table tennis.
“It is a game you can play at any level for as long as you like. I suppose reactions do fade with age, but my foot-work was always my biggest asset and I always had the belief that I could bounce from side to side very quickly.”
Mrs Fletcher was born in Great Yarmouth in 1925 where she lived through the horrors of the bombing of the town during the Second World War, and moved to Gorleston in 1946.
She said: “I was one of the ones that stayed home during the war, and wasn’t evacuated, and at that time they made all the youngsters join a youth club. I came across some people playing table tennis and I thought that looked interesting.
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“I immediately took a big interest in it and took to it like a duck to water. At first I would cheekily play the boys at the club where the winner would have to get a cup of tea, and I have played it ever since all over the world.
“I have 14 medals from world and European championships the first of which came in 1987 in Yugoslavia which I had only attended just as a friend to someone else really.
“After that I was playing in Australia, America, Sweden and so many other places and that came through saving my pennies over a year, as I had to pay to go to these places.
“I had some absolutely amazing experiences which I will never forget. I played it all the time until 2008 as I had to go for a new hip replacement in 2009. I always wanted to give 100pc and I did not want to be known as a has been so that’s when I stopped.”
Her impressive list of titles includes gold medals in the Over 75s section of the World Veteran Table Championships in 2002, and in 2007 in the over 80s section.
Mrs Fletcher had five children Christopher, 69, Susan, 65, Jean, 63, and twins Jane and Richard, 57, with her first husband Bill Allan, who died in the 1960s. She was later remarried to George Fletcher. She also has 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
She said: “I lost my mother, then a day later I lost my second husband George and then a couple of weeks later my father died in 1974, but the way I have always viewed life is that was the way it was.
“My life is still here and I have got to make the most out of what I have got.”
Mrs Fletcher worked at the Northgate and James Paget Hospitals.
She used to play and coach at the Northgate Hospital Social Club and is president of the Yarmouth Table Tennis League where she still referees and coaches youngsters today.
Now 90, Mrs Fletcher looks back at her impressive career with pride at what she achieved.
She said: “I worked many jobs to help look after my children and maybe without that I could have gone professional.
“But I have no regrets whatsoever. I have lived and done many wonderful things that make me feel lucky at what I have had in my life.”