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Thursday, Apr 25, 2019
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At 84, competitive spirit still thrives in pickleball player

She’s called a miracle woman at the Northdale Rec Center.

She is one of the best pickleball players anywhere. She has the energy of a teenager, the alertness of a doctoral candidate, and some claim she might even be able to dunk a basketball.

Alice Lopez is 84 years young and is as competitive as she was when she was a kid playing tennis and softball during the days when sports weren’t considered proper for girls. She’s been that way her entire life. She doesn’t plan on quitting, ever.

Lopez, who has spent her entire life in Tampa, took up pickleball after undergoing surgery on her shoulder three years ago, an injury that will keep her off the tennis court for good.

She discovered pickleball, a fast-growing sport among seniors, and can hang with the best of them at the Northdale Rec Center.

Sports have always been a passion for Lopez.

“No one is more competitive than me,” Lopez said. “I still can play with the younger ones.”

Lopez attended Hillsborough High School in the 1940s. Soon afterward, she was a stay-at-home mom for her children. All three also grew up to be competitive, but Lopez said she can beat them.

Lopez oozes energy on and off the pickleball court. She plays whenever she can. At 84, she claims a good day is when she runs herself into the ground at the Rec Center and then goes home and washes her car. She’ll even wash the neighbor’s car if needed.

Her secret? She eats well, she said, and doesn’t mind a glass or two of wine. She has never smoked, even though growing up in Ybor City, she spent plenty of time surrounded by cigars.

Lopez played tennis at the Carrollwood Country Club until her rotator cuff injury. She was used to playing at the highest senior level before the injury. Afterward, she figured it was time to play B level tennis.

But that just wasn’t going to cut it with someone who always strives to play against the best.

“It was all about vanity,” Lopez said. “I couldn’t play B League and I heard about Northdale and pickleball. I would rather quit tennis altogether than play in the B League.”

She heard about pickleball from friends and decided it sounded like fun.

And while she remains competitive, she understands that the competition in pickleball isn’t serious. “I’m a good athlete,” Lopez said. “But I can’t get to some shots and now I am just playing to have fun. I want to win, but I am playing to have fun.”

At 84, she isn’t done yet. She wants to play in the Florida Senior Games and is looking for a pickleball teammate. And of course, she wants to win.

“I am too competitive to settle for anything less,” she said. “I still have a lot left.”

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