Sport Week: Introduction to table tennis

Table tennis is one of the most widely participated sports around the world. 13 Jun 2016
Table tennis player in action

In front of a very supportive crowd, the class 6 Danish team took two 2-0 wins on day one from Sweden and Germany’s teams.

ⒸMorten Olsen
By Devon Robertson | For the IPC

Table tennis serves can exceed 200km/h and cross a 2.74m table in .11 seconds, which is about three times faster than the blink of an eye.

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

Today, it is estimated to have over 40 million competitive players and millions of recreational players. Para table tennis is the third largest Paralympic sport in terms of athlete numbers and is practiced in more than 100 countries. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) continues to grow and is now one of the largest International Federations. The sport is governed by the ITTF through the International Para Table Tennis Committee (IPTTF).

Para table tennis offers singles and team events for both men and women, with standing, wheelchair and intellectual impairment classifications (which will be explained in another article in this series of Sport Week).


The object of the game is to use a racket/bat to hit the ball over the net onto the opponent’s side. A point is won if the other player fails to return it.

Matches consist of five games of 11 points. If both players/ pairs score 10 points, then the game is won by the first player/pair to lead by two points. In Rio 2016, the team events will be played over the best of three matches, starting with a doubles and then one or two singles matches to decide the tie.

A point is most often scored when: the opponent hits the ball but misses the playing surface; player does not return the ball after it is hit over the net to his/her side of the table; touches the table with their free hand; or plays the ball into the net. Additional ways to score a point can be found in the ITTF Handbook.


Racket/Bat: The racket/bat may be any size, shape or weight but the blade must be flat and rigid. Made of wood, the blade is covered with rubber. The side of the blade used for striking the ball is pimpled, the other smooth. One side of the blade is coloured red and the other black.

Table: The table is a rectangular, dark coloured and matt surface that provides a uniform bounce. The playing surface is divided into two equal courts by a vertical net running parallel to the end lines. The specifications of the standing and wheelchair tables to be used at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games can be found on the IPTTF’s website: standing and wheelchair.

Ball: The ball is 40mm in diameter and weighs 2.7g. The specifications of the 10,000-plus balls to be used at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games can also be found on the IPTTC’s website here.


The Para table tennis competition includes 29 medal events with 276 athletes expected to participate.

The final player’s list is available on the IPTTF’s website for the single selection and team selection.


Table tennis is one of the fastest sports in the world, requiring extremely quick reflexes. Table tennis serves can exceed 200km/h and cross a 2.74m table in .11 seconds, which is about three times faster than the blink of an eye. Spin on the ball in a serve can exceed 3,000 rpm, twice as fast as a major league baseball curveball. The smooth surface of the ball makes it extremely difficult to read the spin with your eyes, leaving athletes to focus on the racket/bat and the subtle audible differences when their opponent contacts the ball.


IPC’s table tennis webpage

Rio 2016’s table tennis webpage

IPTTF’s webpage

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.