AP Photo / Casey Sykes
Tahl Leibovitz plays Hungary’s Dezso Berecki at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
By Merle Exit

It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind, but Tahl Leibovitz wouldn’t change any of it. He’s been having the time of his life.

The Ozone Park resident—who first started playing table tennis at the South Queens Boys and Girls Club more than 20 years ago—had barely walked through his front door after competing in the Paralympic Games in Rio last month when he got back on a plane. Leibovitz didn’t mind this trip, however. After all, it’s not every day he gets to meet the president.

“This was the best trip to the White House because we ended up having a networking event after which was run and executed by the Athlete Career and Education Program and the U.S. Olympic Committee,” Leibovitz said. “We had many great speakers such as Carl Lewis.”

This wasn’t Leibovitz’s first trip to D.C.—or even the first time he’s met a sitting president. But the shine has yet to wear off and, this time around, the table tennis star enjoyed himself just a bit more than he did in 2004, 2008 and 2012. This time, the visit also included a summit of athletes and politicians—including Barack and Michelle Obama as well as Joe Biden—and Leibovitz relished the opportunity to mingle.

It also gave him a glimpse of what he hopes his future will look like.

“I learned a lot about networking and also about different careers for Olympic and Paralympic athletes after they were done competing professionally,” Leibovitz said. “I also learned a lot about public speaking and starting a business.”

Leibovitz came up short of his goal in this year’s Paralympic Games.

The recent Table Tennis Hall of Fame inductee qualified for the Games after winning a gold medal in Class 9 men’s singles table tennis at the Para Pan American Games 2015 in Toronto, but didn’t medal Rio. He fell in the quarterfinals, dropping his match against Belgium and placing fifth in Class 9 competition. Leibovitz left Rio in the top eight in the world.

All in all, it was difficult for him to be too disappointed with his performance.

“These last weeks have been amazing,” Leibovitz said. “I got to compete in Rio with some exceptional people from all over the world. The best experience for me was to be working with my coach and being a part of Team USA.”

Leibovitz, finally, has a bit of a break in his schedule, but it won’t last long. He’ll join forces with Team USA once again, helping with the Women’s World Cup in Philadelphia. Leibovitz is also set to compete in a team tournament in November and is scheduled to play at the US Open in December.

He’s also got plenty of plans away from the table as well, inspired just a bit by this latest trip to D.C.

“Right now I am working on a second book which is an autobiography of sorts,” Leibovitz said. “Once that is completed, I will start working again in Social Work. I hope to do something in the area of crisis intervention.”

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