Table tennis special: from upper-class English pursuit to Chinese dominance

Rio 2016 series explains the sport’s history, the current scene and focuses on two characters from the game today

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Table tennis serves can exceed 200km/h  (Photo: Matthew Loyd/Getty Images)
Table tennis serves can exceed 200km/h (Photo: Matthew Loyd/Getty Images)

Which sport began as an upper-class English pursuit, entered into the Paralympic Games before the Olympic Games, and is now dominated by Asian players? The answer is table tennis, and it’s the focus of this month’s special series on

In 2016, at Riocentro in Barra da Tijuca, about 10,000 little white balls will be smashed around at more than 200km/h in the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games table tennis events. To help ensure you understand what’s going on, and have a bit of background knowledge to impress your friends, we’ve compiled three articles about the sport.

Table tennis originated in 19th-century England, as a game for upper-class families. The equipment was improvised: books were piled up to form a ‘net’, the ball could be the round part of a cork and the lids of cigar boxes served as racquets. Nowadays, the game is hugely popular in Asia, where the world’s best players tend to come from. It first featured in the Paralympic Games in 1960 in Rome. Nearly 30 years later, it joined the Olympic programme at the Seoul 1988 Games.

In our series you can find out more about China’s mastery of table tennis, the new challenge in front of Brazilian legend Hugo Hoyama, and the inspirational story of Polish player Natalia Partyka.

See the following articles:

Tuesday (28 January)China’s domination of the international stage

Wednesday (29 January)Hugo Hoyama’s new challenge

Thursday (30 January)The incredible story of Natalia Partyka

Want to find out more about other sports? See the topics already covered in previous editions of our special features: athletics, badminton, basketball, wheelchair basketball, boxing, boccia, goalball, judo, wrestling, swimming, paracanoe, modern pentathlon, rugby, taekwondo, shooting, triathlon, sailing, volleyball, beach volleyball, handball, golf, football, tennis, cycling, archery, fencing and rowing.

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