Members across the Kettering and District Table Tennis League were stunned last week by the news of the sudden and untimely death of one of their playing colleagues. During his premier division match at the home venue in Arthingworth, Chris Gibbons was at the table when he suffered a massive heart attack and tragically died soon afterwards whilst still at the venue.
Quiet and unassuming, Chris was a well known and popular character within local table tennis across the county, especially at the higher level at which he played. He became involved in the Kettering League in the late eighties and whilst never able to maintain a position at the absolute top of the game in this county, his record is nevertheless extremely impressive. During his career he achieved an astonishing 663 premier division singles wins at an average of almost 75% in the Kettering League. One of his best results came as recently as last season when he beat the current Kettering champion, John Fuller, in straight games. He has been consistently in and around the top 10 in the League rankings, reaching a best ever at number 3. Within the County he has been similarly in and around the top 20 for many years, his highest placing being at number 8.
Beginning his career at Thrapston with the late Geoff Atkinson, he moved to the fledgling Braybrooke team with Gerald Finney when this was formed for the 1999-2000 season. The club changed premises to its current venue in 2003-4, and Chris became captain in 2005-6, before it changed names to Arthingworth in 2009-10. He lead the side to its best ever premier division position of third in 2007, and under his leadership achieved 10 consecutive top-half finishes. He consistently put together a side to play at home on a Friday night, the only club to do so, thus enabling players to play elsewhere on other nights. To the last he was looking to maintain the team and even on the day he died I had exchanged emails with him over new players he wanted to register.
Others too may remember a cold winter night playing in Arthingworth village hall until work improved the venue, and it certainly put the village on the table tennis map in this area. I have already had condolences expressed by one ex-league player who lives in the village and has told of the sadness and shock it has brought to that community.
A frequent entrant in the League tournament, Chris achieved regular success there, winning the over 40’s singles twice, in 2001 and 2003, the 30-39 singles, hardbat singles, the over 40’s doubles and the over 50’s doubles as recently as 2010. He was also runner up in various events on a number of occasions. He encouraged his son, David, into the game and he followed his father’s footsteps by achieving tournament success.
Chris was only 55 when he died and he will be sadly missed by team colleagues, opponents and fellow players alike, with whom his path crossed. That he died quickly doing something he enjoyed may be the way we would all like to go when our time has come, but this will be scant consolation for his family and friends who would have been looking forward to many more years with him.
Chris leaves behind a wife Beverley, son David and grandson Zac, as well as other wider family. Our sincere condolences go out to them all and we wish them strength in the weeks and months to come as they deal with the sadness and devastation Chris’ death will have caused them.