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Using table tennis, an Iowa City couple connects people



Iowa City, Iowa – After playing a game of table tennis together 67 years ago, Jarol and Leah Deurkson were married two years later. What was once a pastime for lovers has evolved into a means of fostering interpersonal relationships.

The Duerksons, who are in their 80s, are excited to participate in the National Senior Games once more when they come to Iowa in July.

They didn’t always play competitively, but in 2009, to commemorate their 50th wedding anniversary, they decided to change things up by participating in the National Senior Games.

“Anybody can have cake and coffee in the church basement – we’re going to the nationals,” Jarol said.

Even though their first attempt at the National Games didn’t go as expected, they persevered.

“We got skunked!” Jarol said. “At the end, they said, ‘what did you learn?’ Two things: My game has to get better, and I’ve got to outlive the competition.”

Since then, they have participated in contests across the nation both as competitors and volunteers. They lend a helping hand at National Each competition is unique.

”The last tournament we played in, I was the only woman,” Leah said.

Once a week, the Duerkson family invited staff and students from the University of Iowa to come play at their house after moving to Iowa City. Through the Friends of International Students program at the school, they accomplished this. It’s said that learning never ends.

“We didn’t really start with formal training until 2006,” Jarol said. “So we just played the first part of our lives and when you do that you learn bad habits… we’re still trying to unlearn those bad habits.”

The Iowa Senior Games are scheduled for June 5–9, with the champion having the opportunity to advance to the National Senior Games in Des Moines, Iowa, the following year. Here is the link for players to register:

The deadline to register for team sports, including table tennis, is Monday, May 20. The last day to register for the remaining sports is May 27.

Competitors in the National Senior Games must be 50 years of age or older; additional details are available at