Even though the U.S. is out of the table tennis competition in London, that doesn’t mean we Americans can’t continue to enjoy the action — with the men’s and women’s finals still to be played, there is still much pinging and ponging to take in.
For those of you who don’t understand the intricacies of the complex and underestimated sport that is table tennis, don’t blame yourself. In America, many view this sport as merely a solution for a rainy day, a sport hidden in three-story suburban basements, just dying to be recognized as the rousing, competitive sport that it is.
So, here is a guide that will help you navigate the sometimes rough and choppy waters that constitute the Olympic table tennis arena:
Table tennis has been on the Olympic menu since 1988, and ever since China has won 20 out of the 24 medals that have come out of the games. One European has broken the mold, and he is known as the “Mozart of Table Tennis.”
What a title.
The rackets used by players are covered in a pimpled rubber surface, that is used especially to reduce the spin your opponent puts on an especially powerful “loop” — by definition, an attacking shot. The ball weighs 2.7 g and is 40 mm in diameter, according to the official Olympic website.
Singles matches are finished once a player wins the best of 7 games. The winner must score 11 points in each game, and clear their opponent by at least 2 points. Doubles matches run the same way, except teammates alternate hits.
There are two umpires that watch over the game, by the net, to make sure no one touches the playing surfaces or hits the ball out of turn during a doubles match. Each player is allowed a single one-minute timeout during each match.
If you want to watch some of the best playersi our planet has to offer, check out Ding Ning and Li Xiaoxia as well as Zhang Jike and Wang Hao, the top two seeded womens’ and mens’ competitors, respectively.