Gabriel Wong of Ponte Vedra Beach has emerged from the 2022 National Senior Games with a gold medal in pickleball, winning the men’s singles 75-79 age group, after a come-from-behind win in the semifinal match.
Wong trailed Ken Willingham, of Dallas, Texas, 14-10 and scored the next six points for the win, 16-14. Dillingham won a consolation bracket match against John Lightbody, for a return match against Wong.
The two split the first two games with Wong winning the first 11-9. Willingham took the second game, 11-5 and Wong won the final game 11-5. Wong held a 7-4 lead and outscored Dillingham 4-1 to the final, serving out the last two points with a 9-5 lead.
While it was the first matchup between the two on the pickleball courts, Wong and Dillingham were regular opponents on the tennis courts in Texas.
“We’ve played tennis against each other many, many times,” said Wong, who lived in Dallas from 1998 to 2014. “He completely gave up tennis and now plays only pickleball.”
Wong, the 2020 Florida Senior Games Male Athlete of the Year, won two tennis matches earlier in the week before retiring in a match on Friday, after the first set, to get in some pickleball practice at the Convention Center. He won the first match against the second-seeded opponent, 6-4 and retired for the loss.
“I’ve never felt so good about a loss before,” he said.
The 2022 National Senior Games continue in the Greater Fort Lauderdale Area through May 23. For daily updates, go to nsga.com/2022Daily.
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