Whenever we hear the word Ping Pong we generally tend to associate it with China. The game of Table Tennis comes to our mind which is popularly known as Ping Pong in China. When you are in China it sometimes feels like people here are born to play Ping Pong. China as a nation has dominated this sport in the last four decades. Children here are used to holding Ping Pong rackets in their hands at a very young age and learn the art of playing it just like the craze for Cricket among children in India. With the name of the game being a Chinese one and its dominance by the same nation people would think the origin of the game is China. But in reality the game of Ping Pong originated in England which can be quite surprising to a lot of people.
The game was played with improvised equipment in probably the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The game evolved along with Badminton and Lawn Tennis. The people were very interested in playing a game of the kind of Lawn Tennis but it had to be indoors. People tried playing Ping Pong on their dining table just like various dice and board games.
When the game first started it was being introduced to the general public by names like Whif Whaf , Gossamer, Flim Flam etc. The words, as can be assumed were being derived from the sounds the ball and bat make when they meet while hitting back and forth.
The turn of the century brought many other refinements to the sport. Players started using celluloid balls after the English man James Gibb discovered them during a trip to the United States in 1901 and proved them to be perfect for Ping-Pong. In 1903, a person named E.C Goode replaced parchment paper and cigar box lids with pimpled rubber on light wooden “blades” as rackets. And after the world championships in Prague in 1936, where two defensive players took over an hour to contest one point, the net was lowered to make the pace of the game-play faster. The game around this period got spread across the European nations. The Asian countries like China , Korea and Japan soon came to know about this sport from the British Army officers who held posts in those parts. There was an unofficial championship held in the year 1901 but the first official championships were conducted in London,1927 by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF). The ITTF was founded in Berlin in 1926 by England, Sweden, Hungary, India, Denmark, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Wales.
Although it may seem today that the sport, in the professional realm, is dominated by Asian countries like China and Korea, it wasn’t always that way. Before the late 1950’s and early 60’s, European players from Hungary especially, but also from France and Sweden seemed without competition. But in 1952, Japanese player Horoi Satoh introduced the foam rubber paddle. The paddle made the game faster and spinning the ball became an even greater factor. Japan became the main winner in the world competitions in 1960, and by the mid 1960’s China took over the reins through to the early 1980’s. Their absolute domination of the sport was finally subdued with the entering of table tennis into the Olympic Games in 1988 and the participation of players from Korea and Sweden.
In the last 25 years this game has been amazingly dominated by the Chinese. The current world number one male player hails from China named Zhang Jike. There are nations like Korea and Sweden giving the Chinese a run for their money with a prime example in the form of Jan-Ove Waldner from Sweden who is the first player to hold a career grand slam ( 2 world championships, 1 olympic gold and a world cup). In the Beijing and London Olympics the Chinese kept a clean sheet by winning all possible Gold medals. This shows the dedication of this beautiful nation towards the game and its future development. Children can look up to players like Wang Liqin, Ma Lin , Deng Yaping(who is arguably considered as the greatest female player of all time) as their idols since they have served the game by being some of its true ambassadors.