Peterborough sportsman plays last competitive match aged 85

A sporting career which began around the time of the Queen’s coronation finally came to an end on Saturday as one of Peterborough’s top amateur athletes hung up his racquets at the age of 85.

Saturday, 27th April 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Saturday, 27th April 2019, 7:18 am
Swee Peck Lai at Bretton Gate ahead of his final match

Swee Peck Lai enjoyed an illustrious career which saw him become men’s captain at the City of Peterborough Tennis Club and even coach a leading badminton player.

But the chartered civil engineer from Longthorpe, who learnt his sporting craft on the courts of Malaysia, hit his final tennis ball in a competitive match when he teamed up alongside his son Michael for a doubles contest which was allowed to finish in an honourable draw.

The match on the courts at Bretton Gate, near Peterborough City Hospital, was followed by a presentation where dad of two Swee was even handed a caricature drawn by Khayali Kanabar.

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Ray McDonnell, Swee, Geoff Smith and Michael Lai

Michael (49) said: “Dad was a little sad to play his final game.

“He is still very fit and active, but you ache a lot more as you get older and can get prone to injury. He still plays a very good game.

“He was known for being very agile and a quick mover around the court. He anticipates very well.”

Swee’s career saw him coach Mike Tredgett, a former England badminton player who won many international men’s doubles and mixed doubles titles.

Club chairman Robert Brown handing Swee a caricature drawn of him

As for his own sporting pedigree, he played badminton at county level for Cambridgeshire and tennis at county level for Gloucestershire. He joined City of Peterborough Tennis Club in 1976 and was the captain for the men’s first team, while he also played for Peterborough City Badminton Club.

Michael’s mother Audrey Joan Lai, who passed away a few years ago, was very understanding of her husband’s love of sport which would see him play every weekend.

It was a passion which Michael remembers clearly from his younger days.

“If he wasn’t playing tennis he was playing badminton. He was very competitive and said he does not like to lose,” Michael recalled .

“If he played well he was happy, but when he had an off day he was very frustrated.

“Everyone said he was certainly a force to be reckoned with.”

Although time may finally have been called on his fantastic amateur career, that will not stop Swee from keeping active in his new spare time.

“He will probably do the gardening and go for cycle rides,” added Michael.

Committee member at the tennis club Ray McDonnell said: “We wanted to celebrate an amazing tennis career.

“Swee served the club over many years both competitively and socially.

“To still be playing at his standard at 85 when he eventually decided to retire his racquet was worthy of recognition.”