Table Tennis History – The Evolution of Table Tennis in Europe

Needs to be General PA’d for KW stuffing in the RB – these are the exact same terms the author uses in the KW box.

The sport of table tennis has a long and storied history. It was most likely derived from a game known as “Royal Tennis” that was played in Europe during medieval times around the 12th century AD. In the 1880′s a form of the game was frequently played by members of England’s upper class as an after dinner social activity. Dinner tables would be turned into playing surfaces, with piles of books being used as the “net” and household items acting as rackets. In 1890, an indoor gaming set was created by David Foster and patented in England. It included table versions of tennis, cricket, and football. In 1891, John Jacques of London released a game called “Gossima”, a game that included paddles, a web-wrapped cork ball, and a net.

The discovery of hollow celluloid balls in England in 1900 by James Gibb ushered in a new era in the tabletop sport’s history. This new type of ball was reported to be the catalyst for the name “Ping Pong” because of the sound it made when it came into contact with the   drum  paddles in use at the time. In 1901 the name “Ping Pong” was registered as a trade name in England. Popularity of the game was high during this time. The Table Tennis Association and the Ping Pong Association were both formed in England in December of 1901.

As game competition increased, players began to experiment with materials and equipment trying to make the game faster and more entertaining. E.C. Goode from England is credited with placing pebbled rubber on his blade in 1902, the result was more spin on the ball. This small change had the consequence of speeding game-play dramatically. This discovery was the inspiration for the pimpled rubber racket, which was the primary type of table tennis racket used until 1952.

After a few years of intense popularity, the game began to fade away in the vast majority of Europe. A few clusters of die-hard fans remained intact in Eastern Europe. After more than a decade long decline a revival took place in the early 1920′s. During this time the first set of standardized laws for the game were established in England. The International Table Tennis Federation was formed in Berlin in1926 with representatives from Germany, Hungary, England, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, India, Sweden, and Wales as founding members. The ITTF adopted England’s standardized laws for international play. The first international tournament was held in 1926 in Berlin. The ITTF continues to be the governing body of the sport today.

The 1920′s through the 1950′s are known as the Classic Hard Bat Era. This was a time of European Dominance. From 1926 through 1931 Maria Mednyanszky from Hungary was the World Champion for five consecutive years. From 1930 through 1935 Victor Barna of Hungary was the World Champion five times, losing only once, in 1931 to his countryman Miklos Szabadoz. European players dominated the field until 1952 when Jiroji Satoh of Japan, with his sponge-covered racket, became the first non-European player to win a championship. In 1958 the first European Championships were held in Budapest Hungary. The USSR made their first appearance at an international tournament during this time.

The year 1971 started a decade-long reign for Swedish players and the beginning of the end of European Dominance. This era produced such Swedish greats as Stellan Bengtsson, Jan-Ove Waldner, Jörgen Persson, and Peter Karlsson, to name a few. In 1977, the ITTF received official recognition by the International Olympic Committee, enabling them to pursue adding the tabletop sport to the Olympic Program. The ITTF chose not to do so at the time. It would be another eleven years before the game debuted as an Olympic Sport. As it continued to gain popularity around the globe, China began to dominate international competitions and stole the championship reigns from their European counterparts. Their reign at the top of the world rankings has remained consistent to this day.


Post time: 12-01-2017