Getting ready for the kick-off
(by Johnathan Humbles, Bowmar Sports)
With the final touches being added on Saturday, we are hours away from the opening of the Liebherr 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championships, in Halmstad, Sweden. The lights have been hung, the cables have been run, and the participants are here chomping at the bit ready to go.
From its humble beginning as an after-dinner parlour game in England, table tennis systematically grew in popularity. No, it was not always the big spectacle that we see today. Around 1904, table tennis started to decline in participation. It was not until the 1920’s when the almost forgotten sport got its second wind.
With the new revival of the sport, interest and player growth started spreading like a 5-alarm fire. This meant that a new system had to be developed. Henceforth, in 1926, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) was formed and also organized the first World Championships that same year.
Just like every other sport, table tennis has seen an exponential amount of technological advancement. The equipment used today is incredibly far from where the sport began. It is hard to fathom that when the sport was started the racket had a 50 cm handle, a hollow racket head, and a parchment paper covering. Today, most players use rackets that consist of a wood outer and center layer, with carbon fiber layers separating the layers of wood. Modern rackets also include rubber sheets with a sponge backing attached to the wooden racket surface.
While the technology advancements of the equipment have changed the sport, the rise of the internet, entertainment and social media, table tennis has moved higher on the radar of today’s sports fans. It has grown so much, that at this year’s World Team Table Tennis Championships, the matches will be broadcast live to numerous television and streaming outlets throughout the globe.
Back to the events of this year’s Championships. It started off with the Pre-Event Press Conference hosted by the ITTF at 12:30 pm
local time, on Saturday, April 28. The event featured ITTF President Thomas Weikert and some of the top stars from Sweden and other countries from around the world. Those with spots behind the table were Ding Ning (China), Timo Boll (Germany), and the rising teenage phenom, Tomokazu Harimoto (Japan).
This year’s team champion has yet to be decided, with the road to the Finals set to begin at 10:00 am local time on Sunday, April 29. Will men’s top seeded Germany rise to the occasions, or will it be second seed China or third seed Japan. Or will a dark horse stun the field and emerge victorious?