Esther Lamptey, 58, Midwest City, Oklahoma
There are many paths people take to find National Senior Games, but few can say they came from another continent.
Esther Lamptey started playing table tennis, a very popular sport in Africa, while growing up in the country of Ghana. She was fortunate to train for a decade with D. G. Hathramani, an elite player from India who is credited with Ghana’s surge in the sport in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Esther’s hard work paid off when, at 18, she won the women’s singles title in 1980 at the African Championships in Dakar.
Table tennis became a central part of her life. “My job was as Chief Inspector for the Ghana Police Service, so I played on the police team and coached them as well.” Esther continued to compete and has also been an international umpire for the sport, most recently for the 2019 Junior and Cadet Open in Ghana.
In 2016, Esther retired from her job and moved to Midwest City, Oklahoma to be close to her daughter Dorcas. “Her father brought her here at age nine,” she explains. “When she came of age, she became a citizen and filed to bring me over. She’s now 32 and doing her medical residency in Arkansas.”
Esther found the Oklahoma City Table Tennis Club and helps coach and officiate in addition to playing. That led to the Oklahoma Senior Games in 2016. She was thrilled to win the state games in singles and doubles with her partner Linda Piatt and to have a celebrated debut at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana with a Silver medal earned in the highly competitive W55-59 singles play.
“I enjoy all types, but playing singles is my favorite,” she says. “I’m the boss. I know how my opponent will return and what to do next. It’s more difficult with doubles.”
Esther is grateful she can continue playing in Senior Games as she ages. “I compete to travel and make friends and not for winning as much anymore,” she observes. “Friendship is No. 1 now. Winning comes second to friendship and traveling to new places.”
After coming to Oklahoma, Esther earned certifications to work as a nursing assistant and is well-liked by residents and staff in a nursing home environment. “People don’t believe my age when I tell them,” she laughs. “I’m so proud to use my example to help others, especially in the nursing home, both with residents and others. I try to motivate them, to use the little bit of knowledge I have in my sport to help them to get up. I’m a coach and I have to encourage my athletes, so I use my knowledge and skills from that on others too.”
“It has made me so popular,” she continues with another laugh. “Everybody there knows Esther and wants me to work in their hall.” She’s trying to get a sport table for the facility, not only to provide recreation for those able to do it, but she also wants to bring in players to have exhibitions for the residents.
“Working in medicine, I see people younger than me who can’t move or do anything,” Lamptey said. “But if they were involved in table tennis, or another sport, it wouldn’t be that way. That’s why I’ll keep playing as long as I can.”