Table tennis at the Olympics: GB team, rules and size of the table

With the Tokyo Olympic Games upon us, here's everything you need to know about table tennis.

Table tennis Olympics guide

After a year’s delay, the Olympics 2020 are here, meaning it’s time to dip our toes into all sorts of sporting events that we might not normally watch.

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One of those sports is table tennis – or ping pong, as it is often known – which will feature 172 players, with matches taking place at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium from 24th July to 6th August.

Team GB has two players competing, both in the singles, so if you want to keep up with their progress – or simply fancy a rundown of all the rules of the sport – you can read our comprehensive guide below.

RadioTimes.com has broken down everything you need to know about table tennis, from how to watch the Olympics, what the rules are and who’ll be competing for Great Britain.

Read on for everything you need to know about table tennis at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

When is table tennis at the Olympics?

Table tennis runs between Saturday 24th July until Friday 6th August.

The Doubles event will run first, then the Men’s and Women’s Singles competitions, before it all wraps up with the Men’s and Women’s Doubles.

Check out our guide on how to watch Olympics 2020 or see Olympics on TV today for more details, timings, and exclusive expert analysis from some of the biggest names in world sport over the coming weeks.

Sir Chris Hoy, Beth Tweddle, Rebecca Adlington, Matthew Pinsent and Dame Jess Ennis-Hill are among the stars we have to being their esteemed opinions, so don’t miss what they have to say.

Find out how you can watch the Tokyo 2020 Olympics closing ceremony.

When did table tennis become an Olympic sport?

In the grand scheme of things, table tennis is still relatively new to the Olympics, having made its first appearance at the Games in Seoul in 1988.

In the time since it was introduced, competitors from China have dominated the awards tables – incredibly managing to win as many as 28 out of a possible 32 gold medals!

How many table tennis categories are there?

There are five events in total, including the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles, both of which have been part of the programme since 1988.

From 2008 onwards the Men’s Team and Women’s Team events were brought in as a replacement for the previous doubles tournaments and these remain in place for this summer’s games.

Meanwhile, in the 2020 games, there will be a mixed doubles event as well – the first of its kind at the Olympics.

Which Team GB athletes are in Tokyo?

Unfortunately, both the Men’s Team and the Women’s Team missed out on qualification to this year’s Olympics, while Team GB also don’t have anybody competing in the Mixed Doubles.

Nevertheless, two Team GB table tennis players are traveling to Tokyo for the singles, including World No.15 Liam Pitchford in his third Olympics, and Tin-Tin Ho – who becomes the first female GB table tennis player to qualify for an Olympic Games since Atlanta 1996

How to qualify for table tennis

A total of 16 teams qualify for the Team Events, with each continent holding a qualifying competition to qualify one team. Nine further teams qualify through a world qualifying event, while Japan, as the hosts, were guaranteed a team spot.

The mixed doubles also has 16 pairs qualify, with similar continental qualifying competitions. A further four teams qualify through the World Tour Grand Finals 2019, another five through the World Tour 2020 and Japan are guaranteed a place. 

For the singles, between 64 and 70 individual players qualify. Each country with a qualified team is able to enter a maximum of two members of that team in the individual competition, while 22 quota places are awarded through continental championships.

The remainder of the places are filled through a final world singles qualifying tournament and the official world rankings.

What is the size of a table tennis table?

A standard table tennis table is 2.74m (9 ft) long, 1.525 m (5 ft) wide, and 76 cm (2.5 ft) high.

What are the rules?

The rules for table tennis are relatively straightforward: to win a game, a competitor must win 11 points and be at least two points clear of their opponent. Matches are the best of seven games in the singles events and the best of five games in the team events.

Each player gets two serves in a row before it alternates, and when serving the player must throw the ball upwards before making contact with their bat.

The serve has to land on the server’s side of the table first, and in singles it can then land anywhere on the opposite side of the table, while in doubles it must go from right to right.

It’s against the rules to hit the ball before it bounces – meaning that doing so will see you lose the point instantly – while it is also against the rules to hit the table with your non-bat hand.

In doubles, teammates must alternate hitting balls in a rally, no matter who is nearest the ball when it lands on the table.

Read more – check out our comprehensive guides to the Olympic sports: Athletics | Boxing | Golf | Pentathlon | Shooting | Sport Climbing | Trampoline | Water Polo

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