Juneau can now claim to be home of a world table tennis champion.
Bob Janes, 59, captured the gold medal at the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah, earlier this October. James won the singles competition for players with a world ranking of 1,600 or higher. He was one of three Alaskans who competed in the table tennis event.
Janes said there were about 170 total participants in the table tennis competition, which featured players from as far away as England, Germany and Mongolia.
"What was interesting to me was that the tournament in St. George is for people over 50," Janes said. "The competition is hard but the people are nice, so it's fun to go down there and meet people from all over the country."
Janes first started playing the game when he moved to Fairbanks from Illinois in the 1960s. He said he played a little in junior high, but the frigid climate of Fairbanks helped stoke his competitive fires.
"When I ended up going to school in Fairbanks, they had a table in each one of the dorms to go on an indoor activity in the winter," Janes said. "When it's 30-below, you better do something in the evening."
Janes played off and on before moving to Juneau in 1975.
Since relocating to Juneau, Janes plays with friends inside a loading dock at Alaska Electric Light and Power Company on Mondays and Wednesdays.
In addition to playing, he coaches the game to younger players.
In 2002, Janes served as Team Alaska youth table tennis coach for the Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland.
He said he's helping coach players at his church for the upcoming AWG, March 6-11 in the Kenai Peninsula. Team tryouts will be Jan. 20 in Anchorage.
Whether he's coaching or playing table tennis, Janes loves the sport.
He's also credited the game for helping him stay fit.
"The other thing that helps me is that I got diagnosed with diabetes a couple years ago and the exercise is good for me," Janes said. "Two or three times a week I get a good workout. It's great for me."
Janes still plays with students like he did when he was a student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
He plays in Anchorage when he can and sometimes heads to UAS for a game.
While he classifies his particular style as more defensive, he continues to enjoy the competition.
"Mine is a more defensive same," Janes said. "When I get a shot I can hit I go for it. I'm a little older, but with the students I'm giving away 20-25 years so my game isn't quite as fast as it used to be."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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