90-year-old tennis player going strong at Langara courts

Tong Fook Wah, 90, came up with an idea to use carpets to soak up water on the courts.
Tong Fook Wah, 90, came up with an idea to use carpets to soak up water on the courts.

Tong Fook Wah enjoys the simpler things in life. Reading the newspaper, going to the gym and waking up at the crack of dawn everyday to play tennis at the Langara courts.

He hits the ball with skill and agility, and while he may not be the next Roger Federer — he is a respectable 90 years old.

Every morning at 5:30 a.m., Wah wakes up and makes the 20-minute drive to the Langara Tennis Courts on Ontario Street and E. 56th Avenue to rally with approximately six players, rain or shine.

Wah, who sold leather goods in Macau, immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada 27 years ago and fell in love with the scenic beauty of Vancouver.

“When I left the airport, I said ‘Vancouver is so beautiful’,” said Wah. “After I went back to Hong Kong, I chose Vancouver as the place for me to retire.”

Now, Wah loves Vancouver almost as much as he loves playing tennis.

He played badminton for more than 30 years in Hong Kong before taking up a different, less physically draining racket sport and joined the Langara Tennis Group in 1994.

“I found as I got older, I wanted to switch because in badminton the birdie doesn’t hit the floor, you have to chase it,” he said. “It’s quite different  — with badminton you use your wrist but with tennis you don’t need to chase [anything]. If the ball hits the ground, it comes to you and you don’t have to run.”

Terry Kong, president of the Langara Tennis Group, said Wah isn’t just there to play, but has voluntarily taken on the responsibility of clearing leaves off the courts in the morning.

Kong also credited Wah with an idea to allow local tennis lovers to play even if the courts are wet.

“If you go to the courts you’ll see some carpets hanging on the fence, he made those. The carpets are on a cable and you pull it onto the courts and it picks up the water and dries the courts very quickly,” said Kong, adding that the carpet came from Wah’s house renovations.

Wah has two daughters, one son, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Even his grandchildren understand his love for the sport; for his most recent birthday, they chipped in and bought him a ball machine.

“In the summer, I will play with the machine,” he said, looking to the future.

Reported by Kendra Wong

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