SOME of these people might not look like your average athletes, but today they’re heading off to Amsterdam to represent the UK.
They are part of Oxfordshire Pickleball Club, which plays an obscure racquet sport originally from the US.
As far as its members know, the club is the only one in England that plays.
Abingdon resident Gill Smith, 77, is one of the 13-member team going to the Netherlands.
The great-grandmother of two said: “I am terrified but absolutely excited.
“I have loved my sport and played a lot of them but this is the first time I have represented my country at anything.
“We became involved because we happened to be playing badminton, and we were asked to play pickleball. We gave it a go and we got hooked more or less immediately because it is such a good game.”
Mrs Smith, who used to be a teacher in Nottinghamshire, said: “My family thinks it is absolutely wonderful and they are very pleased I am keeping active.”
She said there would be teams representing countries such as Spain, France and Canada at the two-day international pickleball competition, which is being held in Europe for the first time.
Club co-founder Maureen Wilson, 63, said: “There are groups in Abingdon, Kidlington and Witney, and they are the only groups we know of in England, though there is one in Scotland.
“People cannot believe how it has taken off. It is a milder game than tennis so it’s easier to play. Over in Florida most of the players are 50 or over.”
She said the sport was introduced with the help of Oxfordshire Sports Partnership’s Go Active team because the racquets are not sold in the UK.
Go Active coordinator for Cherwell, Christina Higgs, said: “It is an adaptation of tennis which makes it easier to play and more accessible.
“We have a newsletter which goes out and we promote it on there.”
People can attend practice sessions at Kidlington and Gosford Lesiure Centre on Fridays, between 7.30pm and 9pm, or at the White Horse Leisure Centre in Abingdon, on Tuesdays, between 2pm and 3pm. Alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org
But what is pickleball? Watch this video
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