Para table tennis has been part of the Paralympic programme since the first Games were held in Rome in 1960, when only wheelchair athletes competed. Interestingly, table tennis has a much longer history in the Paralympic Games than its Olympic counterpart, which first appeared in 1988. Today, table tennis is the third largest Paralympic sport in terms of athlete numbers.
Like all other para sports, table tennis was open only to athletes in wheelchairs from when the Games began in 1960 up until the 1976 Games. Today, this sport is played by athletes with a wide range of impairments, who are classified into 11 classes based on their physical and intellectual impairments for Paralympic competitions. This age-old sport has more than 40 million competitive players in over 100 countries worldwide.
Brief overview of the rules
A match is played over the best of five sets, with each set won by the first player to reach 11 points with a two-point margin. Para table tennis follows the exact same rules as its Olympic counterpart, with slight modifications regarding the service rules for players competing in wheelchairs. A let is called if the ball returns in the direction of the net after bouncing on the receiver’s court or leaves the receiver’s court by either of its sidelines.
Like in tennis doubles, doubles partners in wheelchairs do not have to take turns hitting the ball in para table tennis.
There are 11 classes – TT1-TT5 are wheelchair classes, TT6-TT10 are standing classes and TT11 is for players with an intellectual impairment. Players who cannot grip a racket firmly can strap the bat to their hand or use an elastic bandage to join the bat and the hand. According to the regulations, some standing players can use canes or crutches, particularly in classes 6 to 8.
Physical disabilities (wheelchair or standing), intellectual impairments.
International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF): www.ittf.com
© Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images