Sport Week: History of table tennis

Para table tennis was one of the original eight Paralympic sports that featured in Rome 1960. 16 Jun 2016
Choy Hing Lam and Rignell Fabian

Choy Hing Lam and Rignell Fabian at the London 2012 Paralympic Games

ⒸLieven Coudenys
By Devon Robertson | For the IPC

Originally created as an after-dinner alternative to lawn tennis, table tennis has progressed into the sport with the most participants worldwide.

Table tennis was invented in Great Britain in the 1880s. Played by the upper classes, the game was played on the dining table, using household items for equipment. People would use piles of books as the net, a champagne cork as the ball and cigar box lids as the bats. By 1900, the sport was rapidly evolving and growing in popularity as an organised sport.

Table tennis has been a part of every Paralympics since the first Games held in Rome in 1960, being one of the original eight sports. It did not make its Olympic Games debut almost 30 years later in Seoul 1988.

Para table tennis competition included singles and doubles events, with a maximum of three classes per gender in each, which is hardly comparable to the 11 classes in each gender that are set to take place in the Rio 2016 Paralympics. Today, the sport is the most popular racket sport in the world, with more than 300 million players participating across five continents.

The first Para Table Tennis World Championships did not take place until well after its introduction to the Paralympics Games and were held in Assen, Netherlands in 1990.

China’s Xiaoling Zhang holds the record for the most gold medals from a Paralympic Games. Winning her first gold in 1988, Zhang continued on to win an additional six gold medals, with her last in her home Games in Beijing 2008.

South Korea’s Kyung Mook Kim currently holds the record for the most medals at a Paralympic Games. Taking bronze in the singles and silver in the team events in Barcelona 1992, Kim upgraded to singles gold in Atlanta 1996. In London 2012, he took singles silver. He will be heading to Rio 2016, aiming for his fifth gold.

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games will also mark a milestone in Para table tennis, as two Paralympians will also be playing in the Olympic table tennis event. Poland’s Natalia Partyka and Australia’s Melissa Tapper have both been confirmed for the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Partyka made history in Beijing 2008 by becoming the first ever Para table tennis Olympian. Tapper will become the first ever Australian athlete to compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

A total of 276 Para table tennis athletes will compete over 29 medal events in September’s Games.

Editor’s note: Each sport on the Rio 2016 Paralympic programme will have a dedicated week of featured content published on Every week a new sport will be featured and the series will run until September’s Games, helping the public understand more about the 22 sports being contested in Rio.


Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs)

The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.

Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.