By G. Greg Tooker, MA Senior Games State Ambassador
Region – At first glance, Leonid Sukher appears to be a typical early senior male but perhaps in better physical condition than the average American. Born in Ukraine in a small town between Kiev and Odessa, Sukher emigrated with his wife and other family members to the United States toward the end of the last century. They began their life in Chicago in 1998 where he got his first job. In 2000 he accepted a position with EMC and moved to Massachusetts. Sukher and his family now live in the Boston area where he is a Senior Engineer with Dell-EMC.
Sukher has served as the Massachusetts Senior Games Table Tennis Event Manager since 2014. But as a child in Ukraine, he had no access to table tennis equipment so he and his friends fashioned their own. At about age seven, he constructed a paddle out of scrap plywood and soon realized that he was getting pretty good at the game.
The years went by and he continued to play but did not enter competition until after he arrived in the United States. In 2007, after a routine physical exam, Sukher’s doctor told him his cholesterol was high and that he should go on medication. The alternative was to become more physically active, watch his diet and, as Sukher himself confided, “stop sitting around so much, eating popcorn.” Over the next few years, he joined the Boston Table Tennis Center in Medford, where he became a regular. He has made many good friends, including Nicholas Gangi, a multiple National Senior Games champion, now known as a world veteran player who continues to show his stuff around the globe despite the fact that he is in his 90s!
Sukher likes both singles and doubles play and teamed up with his partner, Slawomir Marczak, to win his first gold medal at the National Senior Games in San Francisco in 2009. One of his most coveted accomplishments is the achievement of his 2000+ USATT ranking in 2018. Since 2009, he has competed in several national and world competition events, most recently at the World Veterans Table Tennis Championships in Las Vegas. He will again compete in this event in Bordeaux, France, in 2020.
Watching these senior athletes perform on the court is astounding. Reactions are near instantaneous and the movement cat-like. It is not difficult to conclude that regular involvement in a game like table tennis can go a long way toward extending one’s physical health into later life….even for those of us not possessing world class capabilities.