2023 Florida Senior Games, presented by Humana, December 2-10, 2023, Florida's Sports Coast/Pasco County

FSG Athletes of the Year Form Table Tennis Mixed Doubles Team

Editor’s Note: This article was written prior to the completion of the National Senior Games Mixed Doubles competition. John Shultz and Essie Faria teamed to win the gold medal in the 85-89 age group. Shultz also won 85-89 age group silver medals in Men’s Singles, and Men’s Doubles with partner Deane Chickering. Faria won an 85-89 age group Women’s Singles silver medal and teamed with Jane Pang, to win a Women’s Doubles bronze medal.

John Shultz has established himself as the most consistent gold medalist in Florida Senior Games Table Tennis history. He has won a medal in 29 of the 30 years of the Florida Senior Games.

He began winning medals in 1993, the second year of the Games, in the 55-59 age group. He claims to have won a medal in the inaugural Games, but there are no records from that year.

In the 2021 Games, he won medals in the 85-89 age group and was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award, for competing in the Florida Senior Games in all four of its decades.

However, he has not been a regular fixture in the National Senior Games, presented by Humana. Since it’s in his home state, Shultz, now living in Sarasota, will be competing in all three events at the 2022 National Senior Games.

“I’m not a regular,” Shultz said. “I’ve played a half-dozen times in the National Games. The last time was in Pittsburgh (2005),” Shultz said. He was a fifth place finisher in Men’s Singles in the 65-69 age group.

Shultz will be in a very competitive Men’s Singles event with 13 other athletes, including his Men’s Doubles partner, Dean Chickering, from The Villages. The duo have paired to win nine Florida Senior Games Men’s Doubles gold medals since 2008. Since 1993, Shultz has won 28 Florida Senior Games gold medals.

However, his impressive accomplishments have come in Men’s Singles and Doubles. Of the 28 gold medals, only one has come in Mixed Doubles.

With that in mind, Shultz, the 2009 Florida Senior Games Male Athlete of the Year, will be playing with the 2011 Florida Senior Games Female Athlete of the Year, Essie Faria, of Melbourne. While the majority of Faria’s success has come in track and field events, she has won eight Florida Senior Games table tennis gold medals.

“We decided to play together in the National Senior Games in December at the Florida Senior Games,” Shultz said. “We’ve played together one time before and she decided I was good enough to play with her.”

Faria has been busy at the 2022 National Senior Games winning a gold medal in the 85-89 age group in the 1500 Meter Power Walk and a silver medal in the 5K Power Walk. She was a seventh-place finisher in the shot put. Besides teaming with Shultz, she will play Women’s Singles and team with Jane Pang, from Clermont, in the 80-84 age group.

While Shultz has a very competitive spirit, he and Faria have quite different personalities. Shultz is friendly, but not too vociferous. Faria is the life of the party. At the 5K Road Race, she wore a t-shirt that read, Perfect 10.” At the Celebration of Athletes, she was an enthusiastic participant in the pre-celebration dance party.

No matter the differences in personality, Shultz and Faria are talented table tennis players in the 85-89 age group. Who knows, if the two of them end up with mixed doubles gold medals, an impromptu dance party will break out in the Broward County Convention Center.