Kelly Shimabukuro and Dianne Asis stand atop the winners’ podium after taking the gold medal in women’s doubles on Dec. 10 at the 2021 Pickleball Nationals. At left are bronze winners Christine Weyer and Amy Gibbs, with silver medalists Melissa Suchomel and Christie Lammi at right. (Courtesy Marilyn Shimabukuro)

In May, California residents Kelly Shimabukuro and Dianne Asis qualified for the 2021 Pickleball Nationals, and the pair have made the best of the opportunity.

Shimabukuro, of Westchester, and Sacramento’s Asis competed at the Dec. 6-14 event with teams from all over the U.S., and came away with the gold medal in 35-plus women’s doubles.

This wasn’t an easy journey to the gold, as they lost their first match in three games, which took them to the single-elimination Opportunity Bracket with each match being a one-game-only match to 15 points. It seems like the odds to come back were 1,000 to 1.

They won the next six matches, 15-0, 15-12, 15-7, 15-4, 15-11, 15-5 to get back into the medal rounds.

Next was the bronze medal match, which they won 11-3, 16-14, despite Asis battling a leg injury that needed a referee time out. The match was a true nail-biter that felt like a final, with a big crowd gathering and a lot of fans screaming and yelling.

The team Shimabukuro and Asis played for the gold medal were also from Sacramento – who would have thought that out of all 23 teams, they would be playing familiar opponents? Plus, their opponents, Melissa Suchomel and Christie Lammi, had not lost any of their previous four matches.

Shimabukuro and Asis lost the first game, 5-11, but bounced back to win the next two games, 12-11, 11-7. Since their opponent had not lost any of their previous matches, there would be one final game to 15 points to determine the champion.

As a fan watching from the bleachers, them being down 4-10 at one point was very stressful and agonizing. But here’s where the comeback started; back and forth, one point at a time, until Shimabukuro and Asis pulled it out and won the game, 15-13, capturing the gold.

With the win, the pair automatically qualify for the 2022 Pickleball Nationals.

What an amazing experience, meeting new pickleball fans and hanging out with everyone … another entry into the memory book.

Other players in the tournament included former NBA player Rick Barry and golf pro Hank Haney.

— Reported by Marilyn Shimabukuro

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