Prime at Age 53

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el-vaquero-staff-writer/" class="creditline">EMIN AVAKIAN
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Over the years, some of the best athletes of our time have been questioned because they were considered too old. Take, for example, Michael Jordan, who was surrounded by many questions when he came out of his second retirement to play for the Washington Wizards. Then there is Barry Bonds, who is approaching 40 and getting doubts if he will break the all-time home run record. Now we have Marco Taoatoa who has broken all barriers.

Taoatoa, 53, who is married and has three children, is on the GCC Men’s Tennis Team. He has been playing tennis for 35 years, since the age of 18. That means he has been playing tennis longer than some of his teammates have been alive.

“Running with these younger guys makes me feel younger,” Taoatoa says with an ever-present smile.

Taoatoa has always been a recreational tennis player. The only team he was on before coming to GCC was his high school team at Belmont High School in the early 1970s. He decided to play tennis competitively after he was laid off from his job and had plenty of time on his hands.

He was sitting in class with his son, who goes to GCC, and decided it would be a better idea to become a student until he would find a new job. Coach Bob MacKay, who knew Taoatoa before he started playing on the team, first brought up the idea of playing tennis on a team.

“He really did us a favor by coming and playing for our team,” Coach Mackay said. “It was not easy though, he had to work his life out and change his whole schedule just to do what he enjoys doing.”

To Taoatoa, he just wants to play tennis and make the best of his opportunity to play on a team. When asked what his most memorable moment has been, Taoatoa, without hesitation, recalled a match.

“We were playing against Ridley College and I was in a singles match against an 18-year-old. The match went down to the wire, we both won three sets until he won the match in a tiebreaker. Even though I did not win, it felt good just playing a competitive match and being in good position to win,” Taoatoa recalls.

Many may wonder how a 53-year-old can go deep into a match with an 18-year-old; according to Taoatoa, it is pretty simple. His secret is he has participated in 10k marathons, jogs daily and he has a black belt in karate.

“Him having a black belt in karate is great for us because his hands are so quick,” Coach MacKay said.

Taoatoa is playing tennis on the GCC men’s tennis team not because he wants to play at a higher rank, but because he is enjoying being on a team and the competition that comes with it. Most other athletes will tell you that they love the sport that they are playing. With Taoatoa, it is the opportunity to step onto the tennis courts every day and not let anything get in his way.

“Marco is really competitive. He will fight for every point and never give up,” said peer player Roland Nazarian.

In many ways, Taoatoa proves that age is nothing but a number. He said, “you kind of forget your age when you are out there playing.”