Remembering Tony Clayton: Table Tennis Legend and Ambassador

Remembering Tony Clayton: A Table Tennis Legend

Tony Clayton, a former England international and true legend of the sport, passed away, leaving an indelible mark on the table tennis community.

Born on December 28, 1950, in Hull, Clayton’s table tennis journey began at his school, Hymer’s College, where his mathematics teacher, Geoff Underwood, helped nurture his talent. He quickly rose through the ranks, winning junior titles and earning a spot on the Yorkshire junior team in 1967, before making his senior debut for Yorkshire in 1969.

The pinnacle of Clayton’s career came in 1971, when he was selected to represent England in the historic “Ping Pong Diplomacy” tour of China, along with teammates Alan Hydes, Trevor Taylor, Pauline Piddock, and Jill Shirley. This landmark event not only made table tennis history but also contributed to the thawing of diplomatic relations between China and the West.

“Tony Clayton was a true gentleman of the game, beloved by all who knew him. His legacy as a player, administrator, and ambassador for table tennis will continue to inspire generations of players and fans alike.”

Throughout the 1970s, Clayton continued to dominate the national and international stage, winning numerous open titles and representing England in over 40 international matches. His partnership with Laurie Landry in men’s doubles was particularly successful, with the duo claiming over 100 open titles.

After his playing career, Clayton remained actively involved in the sport, serving as England Junior Captain, a member of the ETTA National Selection Committee, and the inaugural secretary of the Players’ Association of Table Tennis. He was also deeply committed to the Dorset County TTA, serving as Chairman from 1997 to 2005 and President from 2009 to 2018.

Sadly, in recent years, Clayton’s later life was affected by the onset of dementia, which gradually robbed him of his memories. However, his dedication to the sport he loved never wavered, and he continued to play weekly sessions with Matt Ware, whose enthusiasm and care for Clayton were remarkable.

The table tennis community extends its deepest condolences to his wife, Sanja, his children Oliver and Amy, and all of his family and friends. Tony Clayton’s legacy as a player, administrator, and ambassador for the sport will continue to inspire generations of players and fans alike.

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