Table Tennis is one of the most intriguing sports on the planet. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is the largest sport organizations in the world and in 2015 it reported they had 222 national associations under its umbrella. With lightning fast rallies and cat like reflexes, players use small bats to hit a light, plastic ball over a net and onto the other side of a waste-high table. The spin applied by the rubber cover sponge rackets can generate up 9000 r/m (Revolutions per minute) on the tiny 40mm ball...just imagine trying to return a smash traveling at full pace towards you from the bat of an Olympic champion.
In the Olympics
Table tennis competition has been in the Summer Olympic Games since 1988, with singles and doubles events for men and women. Athletes from China have dominated the sport winning a total of 47 medals in 28 events, including 24 gold medals. Due to this dominance, the format was changed for the 2012 Olympics - only two competitors from each country can now enter (instead of 3) each category. This format ensures that one country cannot win all three top medals.
In the Paralympics
Para table tennis was included in the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960. It follows the rules set by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). The usual table tennis rules are in effect with slight modifications for wheelchair athletes. Athletes from disability groups, which are classified between 1-11 can take part in this event. Class 1-5 are for those in wheelchairs and class 6-10 for those who have disabilities but can still play standing. Within those groups the higher classification means the more function the athlete has, and class 11 is defined for players with an intellectual disability.
Quick Guide Olympic Table Tennis (Video)
Courtesy of The Olympic Committee.