Photo Finish: Machiko Suzue

Ping-pong player

Photographed at North Shore Senior Center, Northfield

Wilmette resident Machiko Suzue may be quiet, but her competitive side comes out at the ping-pong table. Suzue skillfully handles the paddle, directing the ball to go to her opponent’s untended spot, with speed and precision.

Every week, except during the coronavirus pandemic, she plays ping- pong at the North Shore Senior Center, competing against others, enjoying the game as well as their company.

For Suzue, ping-pong is a valued way to connect with people, crossing many barriers. A native of Japan, English is not her first language. But playing ping-pong allows her to bond with people in a different way, she says. Playing and competing has become her common language.

Suzue is originally from Ashiya, a city in western Japan. The first time she played ping-pong she was in junior high school. She immediately fell in love with the sport, she says, but didn’t have a chance to play much until after she moved to the U.S., at age 29.

Before moving to Wilmette, she lived in Grayslake for 27 years. In that house, she had a ping-pong table in the basement and her family would often play together. Now, she usually plays weekly at the North Shore Senior Center, in Northfield.

“I love to play ping-pong for many reasons. Mostly, it is an activity I can do at my age, and it keeps me moving,” she says. “It is so much fun, whether playing with one other person or with a group. And since it is indoors, we can play it whenever we want.”

Her passion for the game is evident from her look of determination during a point and her huge smile after it’s over. No matter which way the point goes, win or lose, she’s always excited to be sharing a game of ping-pong with friends.

Photos and Words by Heidi Wagner

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