Lou … 88 and counting | RecordCourier.com

Lou … 88 and counting

Louisa Vanderlinden, right, returns a shot during a Tuesday morning doubles match with Marianne Nevling of Carson Valley Table Tennis Club seniors play at the Douglas County Community Center.
Dave Price |

WHO: Carson Valley Table Tennis Club

WHEN: Senior group, 10:30 a.m.-noon on Tuesday; regular group 7-9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 12:30-2 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Douglas County Community and Senior Center

SPECIAL EVENT: Four-club match on Nov. 7 at 10 a.m. when Reno/Sparks, Carson City, South Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley play for the “Bragging Rights” trophy.

NOTE: The Carson Valley Tennis Club is sponsored by the Young at Heart Senior Citizen Club

Vanderlinden — known as “Lou” by her friends — took up tennis as a sport at age 35 and continued to play for nearly a half-century before she switched to table tennis.

“I played competitively from the very start until I was about 80 and then I switched to table tennis … I’ve had two hips replaced,” she said. “But I enjoy table tennis so much more because it’s a faster game. I think this is the greatest sport for people to play throughout their lives.”

She previously enjoyed success in Northern California Tennis Association age group play, including nine singles rankings in the 50- and 55-year old age group divisions between 1978 and ‘87. At one point, she was ranked No. 3 in women’s 50 singles for Northern California.

“I’ve played competitively all my life and enjoyed it so much,” Vanderlinden said. “I’ve met a lot of people. It was an adventure.”

Was an adventure? Just watch how quick her hands and reflexes are and you can see why she has no intention of stopping anytime soon.

“Heavens no,” she replied immediately. “As long as I can do it, I’m doing it. I think when you stop, you’ve given up. I mean, this enriches my life, enriches my ability to meet people. I just love people and I love athletics.”

In 1994, she won a gold medal in doubles at what is now known as the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah. That achievement enabled her to travel to San Antonio, which represents her longest trip for competition. Vanderlinden’s one regret is that her husband of 44 years, Chuck, passed away before she won that gold medal.

“He always enjoyed going to the tournaments and watching me play,” she said.

Vanderlinden credits her passion for tennis and now table tennis — not to mention her quick hands and reflexes — to the days of her youth growing up in San Francisco.

“I used to play out in the streets as a kid … my mother and father would look out the window and watch me,” she said. “That was always fun. The boys at first made fun of me because I wasn’t playing with the girls, and I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to show you.’ And I did.”

Later, her interest in sports took a backseat while she worked to graduate from San Jose State University with a general business degree.

“I was busy studying in college,” she said. “I didn’t have time for it in college.”

Now a mother of three (one has son passed away) with two grandchildren and one great-grandson, Vanderlinden has only positive thoughts when looking back on her life. Give credit to all those tennis matches — and now table tennis.

“I consider myself very fortunate,” she said. “What a great life I’ve lived. I’ve been well, I’ve been active and I’ve done what I wanted.”