Dressed in his red and blue Pan-American Game shirt, Orange Park’s Stuart Caplin looked a little different that the other players at the University of Florida’s Gator Invitational table tennis tournament.
Caplin is a retired doctor, has four kids and happens to be a table tennis pro. He also happens to play sitting down, in a wheelchair. Caplin has polio.
But playing in a chair has not stopped Caplin’s success. This summer in Grand Rapids, Mich., Caplin took first place in the para table tennis men’s division at the US Open.
“I play wheelchair, so I played in the wheelchair event,” said Caplin. “I also played in doubles in the under 3,600 event. Myself and my partner, we play in wheelchairs. We came in second. Against everyone else who was standing. I thought that was pretty good.”
And others notice Caplin’s success sitting down, too, including the president of the University of Florida Table Tennis Club.
“Stuart and I attend a lot of the same tournaments in Florida. Lakeland mainly. I believe Stuart has been on the paralympic team for the United States multiple times,” said Kyle Moyant.
Caplin says he shares table tennis with his whole family.
“Since I was a kid. I played my dad for my allowance. Not only that, I share it with my whole family: four children, and all of them play. My wife plays. I have a seven-year-old grandson who I’m teaching how to play. It’s a fun sport.”
Because of his love for the sport, Caplin corrects those who refer to table tennis as ping pong.
“You have the difference between ping pong and table tennis. In ping pong, I believe that most people are hitting the ball with no spin. Straight on with a flat racket. In table tennis, you use all different types of speed, all different types of spin. Top spin, under spin, an advance shot called the loop — which is side top,” said Caplin.
He also said polio does not stop him from playing the sport he’s loved a lifetime.
“It’s something I do well. It’s something I play well. I like the exercise. I enjoy being competitive at my age.”
Caplin did not win the Gator Invitational, but he says he takes the wins with the losses. His spirit is still high.
“I lost. I lost. I got some points, but I lost. But the thing is, I can compete against people who are standing up. That’s what I like.”