Olympic Sport Lowdown: Table Tennis

By Lindsey Last edited 86 months ago
Olympic Sport Lowdown: Table Tennis

After Boris Johnson's Beijng banter about wiff waff coming home, you'd think table tennis was a national sport.

Sadly not, in terms of performance, but he was right about the game's origins. It did indeed start out as an after dinner game on the dining tables of England. These days it's no idle digestive distraction, but a test of lightning-fast reflexes and nimble athleticism.

Table tennis was introduced as an Olympic sport in 1988 and China has dominated the sport ever since. In Beijing 2008 they took gold in all four contests (the men and women's individual competitions and the men and women's team competitions) plus two bronze and two silver. Germany, Singapore and South Korea shared the other medals.

British table tennis receives the least funding of all Olympic sports and things aren't looking too promising for 2012, even though elite Chinese players have been sparring with our guys.

Olympic singles matches are played over the best of seven games, with the first player to 11 points winning each game. Team matches consist of four singles matches and one doubles match, each played over the best of five games.

Table tennis was a Paralympic sport at the original Games in 1960 - way ahead of the Olympics - and is one of the largest sports on the Paralympic programme. There are 29 medal events across 11 different classifications - the C4 Paralympics site notes that table tennis was "one of the first sports to open up to all disability classes, including athletes with cerebral palsy in 1980 and players with intellectual disabilities in 2000."

As in the Olympic events, the first to 11 wins the game, in a best-of-five match. There are individual and team events for both standing players and wheelchair athletes. Check out C4's handy 60 second guide to Paralympic ping pong.

In Beijing, China took 22 out of 24 Paralympic medals. Let's hope Britain's home advantage in 2012 has a similar affect! Watch out for our very own world number 2, Will Bayley.

If you want a fun free go at wielding the paddle, the world's longest pong needs participants on the afternoon of Sunday 20 November at Rich Mix, and Rich Mix also hosts a Pongathon on Tuesday 22 November from 5-11pm.

If you've more serious aspirations for your wiff waff, join the Central London Table Tennis League or use Ping London's fabulous map of where to play.

Get the Londonist lowdown on all Olympic and Paralympic sports in the run up to London 2012.

Last Updated 09 November 2011