Pretty in Pink
Comedian George Carlin said that all racquet sports are simply derivatives of ping-pong—even going so far as to suggest that tennis is ping-pong played while standing on the table. Wolfgang Busch might agree with that sentiment.
The paddle-wielding German native competed in a variety of sports (including tennis) in his hometown of Heppenheim, where his father was the right hand to the town’s mayor. Busch says, “I was a semi-professional soccer player and tried out for track and field. I was a roller-skater, swimmer, tennis player and played table tennis with my brother at my uncle’s table in his garage and at my best friend’s house.” However, playing ping-pong, also known as table tennis, was the one activity that sent his ball(s) flying over the net every time. And due to excessive wear and tear to his body from all of the other sports, it was his saving grace; he now plays as a form of physical therapy. “By nature, I am very competitive and I have a lot of fun playing four to five hours at a time. I have a lower back and neck disability and [ping-pong] works wonders for me,” Busch says.
In 2002, he was living in Brooklyn and dating Paulo Freitas. In talking, the couple discovered that they had both enjoyed playing ping-pong as teenagers, so they found a table and played one afternoon. Busch recalls: “We had so much fun, so I decided to start a group by advertising it at the LGBT Center in Manhattan.” He called it Ping Pong NY and it brought smiles to the faces of gay ping-pong enthusiasts to not only find competitive opponents, but new friends to socialize with after the games.
The organization grew and by 2010 they were ready to take on the rest of the gay world in Gay Games VIII, which was played out in Busch’s home country. “I organized and put the team together for the Gay Games in Cologne, Germany and we dominated the recreational division by winning a total of eight medals,” he says. “I won two gold medals and one bronze. It was completely unexpected and was definitely a highlight in my life. It gave me new energy and encouragement and made me very proud of my achievements.”
More recently, in an effort to attract some new players, Busch decided that the group’s name needed a splash of color. “I was looking for a gay touch for our name and somebody suggested ‘pink’ to me,” he recalls. The newly named Pink Pong Foundation caught on and Busch continues to promote well-being in recreation to over 100 members. “The health benefits alone are worth trying it or picking it up again after dropping out for many years,” he says. “Besides, we are a fun bunch of guys!”
Look for Wolfgang Busch in Cleveland, Ohio in 2014 at Gay Games IX. Visit PinkPongFoundation.org for more info.