Para table tennis is one of the biggest indoor racket sports in the Paralympic Games programme, where the venue is packed with tables and several action-packed encounters happen at one go.
Here are some moments captured over the past few Paralympics:
1. The diving save that went viral
Turkey’s Kubra Korkut celebrated too early. She thought she knocked a return far out of the reach of her Dutch opponent, Kelly van Zon, in the gold medal match at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
But when she turned her head, her jaw dropped. The play was not over,van Zon made an incredible leap to save the point, and eventually her second
Paralympic title in the women’s class 7.
2. Olympic to Paralympic dream
A year after competing at the 2008 Olympics, Sandra Paovic was involved in a serious car accident on her way to airport in Paris, following a match. The Croatian suffered a severe cervical spinal injury that impacted her legs and one thought she would not return to the sport again.
However, Paovic remained undeterred and made a remarkable comeback to the sport as a Para athlete. Her gold medal from the Rio 2016 Paralympics is a testimony to her immense determination and grit.
In Rio, Paovic defeated Germany’s Stephanie Grebe in the women’s singles class 6.
After winning gold in Rio, she said: “To have a spinal cord injury like me and to play standing table tennis is really difficult but if I wasn’t as crazy as I am, I don’t think I could do that.”
3. Coming back stronger
Will Bayley was hoping to celebrate gold at his home London 2012 Games. In front of a rowdy crowd, during the class 7 finals, Bayley lost an emotional match to his nemesis Jochen Wollmert from Germany. That setback acted as a catalyst to motivate him for the next Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
At Rio, Bayley came back from a defeat in his opening group match to secure his place in the final. He left the home Brazilian crowd dejected by beating local lad Stroh Pereira in four games.
4. Teenager becomes the next generation
China’s Mao Jingdian was only 17 at her first Paralympics in 2012. But she showed tremendous maturity en route to gold in the women’s class 8, a final that brought her French opponent Thu Kamkasomphou to tears. Four years later, Jingdian went on to defend her title at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
5. Iconic image left at Rio 2016
The armless table tennis player Ibrahim Hamadtou’s action picture became one of the most popular images of Para table tennis from Rio.
The Egyptian, who starred in the YouTube video ‘Nothing is Impossible’, lost his arms in a train accident when he was 10 years old. In the video, he shows how he plays the sport holding the racket in his mouth and serving with his foot.
His dreams of reaching the Paralympics came alive when he finished second at the 2016 African Championships. At Rio, he played two rounds, falling to Great Britain’s David Wetherill.
Originally created as an after-dinner alternative to lawn tennis, table tennis has progressed into the sport with the most participants worldwide. Para table tennis is the third largest Paralympic sport in terms of athlete numbers and is practiced in more than 100 countries.
Para table tennis offers singles and team events for both men and women, with standing, wheelchair and intellectual impairment classifications.
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 took place at the last Paralympics at Rio 2016.
The Rio 2016 Olympic Games marked a milestone in Para table tennis, as two Paralympians – Poland’s Natalia Partyka and Australia’s Melissa Tapper – played in the Olympic table tennis event.
Partyka made history in Beijing 2008 by becoming the first ever Para table tennis Olympian. Tapper was the first ever Australian athlete to compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
How it works
Rallies unfold at high speed, with smashes exceeding 100km per hour and players returning the ball with accuracy. 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. 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.
Para table tennis includes a wide range of impairments categorised into physical and intellectual impairments, with the physical impairment class divided into wheelchair and standing groups. Singles and team events are contested across a total of 11 classes.
by International Paralympic Committee