The Evolution of the Game: Table Tennis

by Seomul Evans - Date: 2010-10-20 - Word Count: 557 Share This!

Table tennis was probably derived from the game "Royal Tennis," a popular diversion during medieval days in Europe. In the 1880s, table tennis became a fashionable after-dinner social activity usually played by upper class people of England. Dinner tables functioned as the playing surface, a row of piled-up books would serve as the "net," and household items would then act as rackets.

A quick look back at history finds that David Foster created the first version of the game in 1890. Created in England, this indoor version also included indoor versions of other popular games, such as football and cricket. Just one year later, London-based John Jacques introduced "Gossima." The game included a net that was 30 centimeters tall, paddles, and a tiny ball made of cork.

A British enthusiast of table tennis, James Gibb, discovered small hollow balls in the United States in 1900 and returned to England with them. Some sources credit James Gibb for coining the name "Ping Pong." According to legend, the name comes from the noise of the ball hitting the paddles used during the game. John Jacques registered "Ping Pong" as an official name for the activity in 1901.

Eventually, game competition became fierce and players started experimenting with equipments attempting to accelerate the speed of the game to make it more entertaining. Englishman E.C. Goode further changed the game in 1902. Goode put pebbled rubber onto the paddle he used to play with. This rubber made it possible to put spin the ball faster. This resulted to a dramatic speed in the game and the discovery also led to the production of the rubber pimpled racket that was to become the main type of table tennis racket until 1952.

Interest in the game began to wane in Europe after a few years of extreme popularity although a few groups of table tennis enthusiasts kept the game alive in Eastern Europe. After a long decline, interest began to be rekindled in the early 1920's and during this time, the first set of standardized laws for table tennis was established in England. The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) was formed in Berlin in 1926 and included members from Czechoslovakia, Austria, Denmark, Germany, England, Hungary, India, Wales, and Sweden as founding members. The ITTF also adopted England's rules and used them for international matches, including the one in Berlin in 1926 which was the first international tournament.

During the 1920's - 1950's, Europe dominated the sport. In 1952, Japanese player Jiroji Satoh became notorious for using a wooden racket covered in sponge rubber and became the first person from outside Europe to win the championship. The year 1952 through the 1970's was known as the Sponge Bat Era.

As table tennis became more popular, China became a dominate force in the international world of table tennis, and they have maintained that position even now.

Where will table tennis go in the future? As long as people all over the world continue to enjoy ping pong and find the sport exhilarating, there's no end to its potential. Maybe it will be responsible for world peace or maybe it will be the first game we play with visitors from another planet or maybe it will continue to be one of the most popular games on the planet. But it is safe to say that table tennis won't be going anywhere any time soon.

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