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Air hockey's appeal has outlasted the space program that inspired it.

First place goes to Danny Hynes of Houston, who beat his doubles partner Ehab Shoukry, also of Houston. Hynes has won the championship eight times and hopes to break the record, now standing at 12.

Phil Arnold didn't finish first, but he's leaving Las Vegas with something he didn't have when he came in. He's been voted on by the USAA to serve as president.

"He's our godfather," Brian Accrocco, says.. "I look at Indian tribes that have elders and he's our elder."

Jamie Montross of Houston nurses an air hockey injury at the Las Vegas championships.
Chris Curry
Jamie Montross of Houston nurses an air hockey injury at the Las Vegas championships.
Phil Arnold contemplates his next move after losing a match at SRO. Arnold, once rated number one in the world at air hockey, is attempting a comeback.
Chris Curry
Phil Arnold contemplates his next move after losing a match at SRO. Arnold, once rated number one in the world at air hockey, is attempting a comeback.

Arnold is also working on his legacy. He mentors Doug Taylor, an up-and-comer with lots of promise in his mallet. "We want to pass on this sport to the next generation," says Arnold. "As we go, we want the sport to continue".

"Phil and I met at SROs and he started giving me pointers," Taylor said. "We exchanged phone numbers and he would show up and teach me all kinds of things." Taylor has been with the sport for only eight months, but already he sees his growth and has adapted his abilities to real world situations.

"I was at SRO and a cute girl was sitting at a table when a shot glass fell," Taylor said. "I totally caught it in mid-air. I said, 'see that's air hockey reflexes'".

"Each one of you players has great potential," Arnold says in a speech made in front of the contestants as the championship play gets underway. "You can be chickens or you can be eagles. I want you to soar down on your opponents and use your talons."

"You know the knights of the round table?" asks Arnold. "We're all knights of this table." He points to one of the air hockey tables. "We play with chivalry and we play with honor. Each one of you players has great potential and it's up to you to pass it on."

Arnold boards a plane in the morning returning to Houston, not returning the world championship, but still hungry. After all, there's the 2011 International Air Hockey Championship coming up August 4-7 and it'll be in Houston at SRO. Until then, Arnold will keep practicing, taking on all comers.

"I've learned so many of life's lessons through air hockey," said Arnold. "It's been good to me."

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32 comments
Jeff Morris
Jeff Morris

In pool, you wait for the balls to stop before shooting again. In this version, the discs just kept going; it would take them forever to stop since they just hovered on a cushion of air.

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Rhonda Omberg
Rhonda Omberg

I read this and the first thing I thought of was some wacky Will Ferrell movie. I understand how air hockey can become a sport; what I can't understand is why a 40-something would consider it some kind of career. And what gives with the "jumping up and down", the "fake time-outs", and the "martial arts moves"? Are you 12 years old, Mr,. Arnold? Do you need some sportsmanship lessons?

 
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