On the Trail of Garvin Yim


‘“It is not a bad feeling when you’re knocked out,” Floyd Patterson said. “It’s a good feeling, actually. It’s not painful, just a sharp grogginess. You don’t see angels or stars; you’re on a pleasant cloud. After [Sonny] Liston hit me in Nevada, I felt, for about four or five seconds, that everybody in the arena was actually in the ring with me, circled around me like a family, and you feel warmth towards all the people in the arena after you’re knocked out. You feel lovable to all the people. And you want to reach out and kiss everybody.”’

The sportswriter, Gay Talese documented this. He followed a lot of people during the height of his journalistic career – found chinks, gaps and spaces that other writers generally ignored. He wasn’t afraid of covering the ‘loser’. In fact, he found such a subject the epitome of truly intriguing work.

“Sport is about people who lose and lose and lose. They lose games: then they lose their jobs.” Table tennis in the Bolton League is not quite of the same magnitude, yet a seed enters the mind following a defeat and attempts to burrow a form of destruction deep within one’s head.

Should I be talking about Ramsbottom‘A’ and Flixton at this crucial time of the season – summarising their perennial rivalry and the cranked up Premier heat with just two evenings remaining? Or perhaps the battle for second spot in Division One between Hilton‘B’ and ‘C’? Or even the titanic slugfest in Division Three – five teams fighting it out behind the dominant Hilton ‘I’?

Another time. This piece is for Garvin Yim – the only player to lose to Neville Singh during the 2011/12 season. Who is Yim? Where does he live? What does he do? How has he been moulded?

I first tried to contact Yim on 22nd May 2013. I posed him a simple question via email: Do you still play? Later that evening, to my surprise, I got a response. It was succinct, yet informative: “I do play, but only in college. I’m afraid I’m just too busy.”

He was a college kid. I hadn’t expected that (only 16-years-old on that famous night in December 2011 versus 73-year-old Singh). I naturally asked more – threw him a whole range of questions in an effort to get to the heart of the Yim dynasty. It was eleven long days before he resurfaced.

“I was born in Trafford, but have lived in Boothstown all my life. My family originates from Hong Kong. I played in two college competitions, coming 2nd each time out of 40+ players. In both finals I was up against Wigan Division One player, John Tooley…”

He went on. He was a lefty with a penhold grip, a big fan of Ma Lin and Xu Xin and had first picked up a bat at the age of six while on holiday in Turkey. Scientifically-minded, he hoped to work alongside the physicist, Brian Cox one day.

And his driving force in life? “Just to keep laughing and smiling.”

It was seemingly a far cry from Floyd Patterson who, three years before the Liston affair, “decided he could not face the general public again if he lost [and] so bought false whiskers and a moustache” to enable him to sneak out of stadiums.

Yim never did answer my second batch of questions though. If you see a Chinese kid with a beard, let me know.



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