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Geoff Nesbitt has a silver touch

Echuca's Geoff Nesbitt has claimed silver at the World Veteran Table Tennis Championships in New Zealand, despite being told he was not to play.

ZACH HUBBER May 29, 2014 3:41am

Geoff Nesbitt.


Geoff Nesbitt knew a sudden movement of his body could collapse his spine.

He was forbidden to play at last week’s World Veteran Table Tennis Championships in New Zealand.

But he did and won a silver medal.

The Moama resident collapsed with acute back spasms during the Australian championships four years ago and it did not look like he would be playing on the world stage again.

But the 80-year-old and his New Zealand partner, Harry Dye, defied the odds to finish second in the over 80s men’s doubles.

‘‘My surgeon didn’t want me to play. But would you sit by and watch? No way,’’ Nesbitt said.

After his collapse in 2010, Nesbitt was diagnosed with plasma cytoma, a cancer of the bone.

One of the vertebrae in his spine had been affected and x-rays showed it to be partially collapsed.

After months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the cancer went into remission and Nesbitt was preparing for the 2012 World Championships in Stockholm.

Five months before the event, the cancer returned.

Another vertebrae was sloughing away and had affected other bones in his body.

Nesbitt had to wear a back brace to protect his spinal column and was on the verge of being a paraplegic.

Despite a solid return to good health, Nesbitt’s surgeon forbade him to compete at the Auckland event, but he was allowed to attend as a spectator.

The sly veteran filled out the online entry form to compete in the singles and doubles in the over 80s category, much to the concern of his friends and wife, Margaret.

A bug struck down Nesbitt during the week, interrupting his singles tournament.

But he and his doubles partner managed to qualify for the semi-finals.

After dropping the first set to the Scandinavian number two seeds, the duo turned the momentum and managed to advance to the gold medal match.

Nesbitt and Dye were no match for the number one seeds, but were content with silver.

Nesbitt first picked up a table tennis bat when he was 15 and started playing competition in Sydney at 18.

The sport has taken him to Norway, Germany and Japan, as well as cities across Australia and New Zealand.

He still uses a custom-designed bat he bought 40 years ago.

‘‘They’ll bury me with it,’’ he said.

Nesbitt has been asked to compete at the national championships later this year, but said he was not allowed to go.

He said the same thing before the world veteran championships.

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