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George Braithwaite at the 2013 United States National Championships (Photo: Malcom Anderson)

A member of the celebrated United States team that made the ground breaking visit to China, following the 1971 World Championships in Nagoya, George Braithwaite passed away on Wednesday 28th October.

He was 86 years old.

Born in Guyana, he represented the country of his birth at the 1958 Caribbean Games, emerging a medal winner in 100 metres sprint and 400 metres relay. Later, in 1959 he moved to New York where he worked as a clerk at the United Nations.

It was in the United Nations building that in 1961 George started to play table tennis; he admitted that one of the attractions was the “pretty ladies”.

He improved quickly, ten years later in 1971, he was selected by the United States Table Tennis Association to visit Central America, giving exhibitions in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Soon after, he was named as a member of the national team to compete in the 1971 World Championships in Nagoya, being a member of the celebrated group that ignited “Ping Pong Diplomacy”.

The following year when China visted the United States, at a specially organised event in the presence of George H.W. Bush, future President of the United States, George played Liang Geliang.

Over two decades later in 1996, at the 25th anniversary of “Ping Pong Diplomacy”, in the presence of Henry Kissinger, the United States Secretary of State and Xu Yinsheng, ITTF President, George organised a “Friendship First, Competition Second” series of exhibition matches.

Incredibly, combined he won more than 70 titles at the United States Closed and United States Open Championships. Except for 1993 when he did not compete, for 27 years without a break, each year he won at least one such title.

In 1989 George Braithwaite was inducted into the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame.