Sports week: 10 facts about Para table tennis

Present as one of the eight inaugural sports in the First Paralympic Games, Para table tennis has grown over the years and now has athletes participating from all corners of the world. These are other facts to know about this sport before Tokyo 2020:

1. Table tennis was included in the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960, 28 years before it made its Olympic debut. That first event consisted of 11 contested medal events, six for men and five for women.

2. All events were for wheelchair athletes, until Toronto 1976 included the first events for standing players. Currently the sport includes a range of athletes with physical and intellectual disabilities.

3. Table tennis was invented in Britain in the 1880s. The upper classes practiced it at the dining room table, using household objects as equipment. Stacks of books were used as a net, a champagne cork as a ball, and cigar box lids as popsicles. By 1900, the sport was evolving rapidly and growing in popularity as an organized sport.

4. Matches are played to the best of five sets of 11 points each. In fact, Para table tennis follows many of the basic rules regarding equipment, match process and point scoring of its version for athletes without disabilities. One of the differences is that in some classes there are special rules regarding the throwing of the ball of the serve. According to Olympic rules, the ball must be placed in the open palm, thrown at least 16 cm in the air and struck. In Para table tennis, where this is not possible, the ball can be thrown by placing it on the elbow or on the racket.


5. Poland’s Natalia Partyka and Australia’s Melissa Tapper competed in the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Partyka, a four-time individual Paralympic champion, also competed in the London 2012 and Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

© Karl Nilsson

6. Table tennis athletes are grouped into 11 classes according to the impact of their disability on their performance: wheelchair (classes 1-5), standing (classes 6-10) and intellectual disability (class 11). Within the wheelchair and standing classes, the lower the number, the greater the impact of the disability on an athlete’s ability to compete.

Women’s class 11 ©Getty

7. In Tokyo 2020 there will be 31 medal events between individuals and teams:

Singles – Class 1 (Men); Singles – Class 1-2 (Women); Singles – Class 2 (Men); Singles – Class 3 (Men / Women); Singles – Class 4 (Men / Women); Singles – Class 5 (Men / Women); Singles – Class 6 (Men / Women); Singles – Class 7; (Men women); Singles – Class 8 (Men / Women); Singles – Class 9 (Men / Women); Individual – Class 10 (Men / Women); Individual – Class 11 (Men / Women); Team – Class 1-2 (Men); Team – Class 1-3 (Women); Team – Class 3 (Men); Team – Class 4-5 (Men / Women); Team – Class 6-7 (Men); Team – Class 6-8 (Women); Team – Class 8 (Men); Team – Class 9-10 (Men / Women)

8. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games competition will take place from August 25 to September 3 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, with 43 matches on the first day alone.


9. The table and net dimensions used in the Para table tennis are exactly the same as in the Olympic Games, with a modification for players using wheelchairs: the table legs are fixed at least 40 cm inside from the baseline, to prevent players from hitting the table when approaching it.

10. The first World Table Tennis Championships did not take place until long after its introduction to the Paralympic Games and they were held in Assen, the Netherlands, in 1990.

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Sports week: 10 facts about Para table tennis

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