A lifelong love and dedication to table tennis paid off for a local pastor last month, as he placed 2nd in his age group and 3rd in his class, at the annual Badger Open in Milwaukee.
“It was my best finish ever!” comments Pastor Jim Weiland, of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church.
As matter of fact, Pastor Weiland and son Brian made it a family affair as Brian went on to place 2nd in his class.
“It was a lot of fun competing down there and having Brian down there with me was even better,” Weiland said with a smile. “It’s a huge event. I would estimate over 300 people came in over the two day event including the top 50 table tennis players in the country from as far away as Texas and the east coast.”
As Weiland explains, his love for the game dates back to his childhood, when he and his father made the game a family affair as well.
“I was around 11 when my dad got me into the game. I took an interest right away and we must have played thousands of games in our basement,” Weiland said. “He was a pretty fair player and competed in tournaments and so on. Then one day he asked me if I wanted to compete in a tournament with him in Waukesha. I was pretty excited about it and had a lot of fun but boy did I get my tail kicked!” the pastor add with a laugh. “But we are a competitive family so that didn’t stop me. In fact, it made me want to keep playing and get better.”
Weiland soon joined a table tennis club in Waukesha and claimed his first state title at age 14 in the “15 and under” group then moved on to take the “17 and under” title at age 16.
“My dad and the older members of the club really helped me with my game.” Weiland adds.
However as is often the case with childhood passions and hobbies, adulthood and responsibilities soon arrived, leading Weiland to hang up the paddle. “When I entered college I suddenly found myself very busy and I soon had a family of my own,” he said. “I still played now and then but not to the level I did when I was younger.”
Then in 2003, Weiland dusted off the paddle once again and set about forming a table tennis club in Wausau.
Since then, Jim and Brian have competed in tournaments in Illinois, Minnesota as well as Wisconsin. Adding to his list of accomplishments, he won back to back Wisconsin Masters titles in the 40 and over age group, in 2013 and 2014.
“It’s really become a passion again!” Jim says. “I have really fine tuned my game since getting back into it. I take a great deal of pride in being self taught. I have never received any formal training or instruction, I just sort of picked up different things over the years by watching others and reading.”
Through the course of his exploits, Pastor Weiland has met and played against legends and hall of famers in the sport, one of which is Ladislav Sranko.
“Boy is he amazing!” Weiland chuckles. “He is a former member of the Slovakian national team and also happens to be the one who dethroned me for the Masters title earlier this year. I met him again in the semi-finals in Milwaukee and beat him. We have played five matches and so far I have the lead 3-2. He’s an amazing man and an amazing player indeed.”
As a word of advice to those who may be interested in the sport of table tennis, Pastor Weiland stresses studying and speed.
“Table tennis is a study and physics sports,” he said. “It’s a fast paced game that all comes down to speed, spin and keeping your opponent off-balance.”
Currently, Pastor Weiland is ranked 6th in the state of Wisconsin and 2nd in his age group.