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CR4 Olympic Coverage: Table Tennis

Posted August 01, 2012 11:27 AM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: olympics Olympics 2012

Hidden someplace in that mess of a basement of yours--under the collection of toy train magazines and next to the decade old once-new and once-used treadmill--lies a ping-pong table.

See the ping pong table there? No, me neither...via Simply Natural Mom

Or more accurately, a table tennis court.

Table tennis is quite the legitimate athletic endeavor in places like China, which has won dozens upon dozens of table tennis awards, and Europe, which has the table tennis European Champions League.

...via Table Tennis Daily

For the rest of the world however, table tennis is taken as gag-recreation. That's why it's earned the silly nickname ping-pong, and also spawned the alcohol-included cousin of table tennis called beirut; as well as the unrelated kin known as beer pong.

Do you know who's crazy-good at ping pong? Forrest Gump.

...via Smarter Babies and Kids

In actuality, table tennis is an exceptionally difficult game that deserves some respect. So I'm here to shed some light onto the game, and maybe you'll take notice. Not that you'll notice the ball, since it has been clock at over 70 mph, and the average return volley lasts just .1 seconds. The International Table Tennis Federation increased the regulation diameter of balls to slow the game down so audiences could actually watch the ball.

Rackets, Balls, and Tables

Table tennis rackets, (aka paddles, aka bats) are wood in construction, with a soft sponge-like material and rubber pad covering the striking side of the racket. Professionals glue their rackets together themselves, and the type of glue used is absorbed by the sponge before hardening, and expands and applies torsion to the rubber after hardeneing. The ball then has longer contact with the rubber, providing spin and speed. This type of glue, called speed glue, has been recently banned due to VOC issues. It's expected to be back in competition as soon as the glue can be formulated without the toxic ingredients.

...via Wikimedia

Balls are 40mm in diameter and must weight 2.7 grams; they can only officially be orange or white. Balls are tested by dropping the ball from 305 mm onto a steel plate, and must have COR of .89 to .92. They're rolled down a 100 mm incline at 14° to determine the amount of veer. Official balls must also have three stars, indicating high quality.

...via Table Tennis DB

Finally, the official table is 2.74 m long, 1.52 m wide, and 76 cm off the floor. A 15.25 cm high net splits the table width-wise, and an equator line runs the length.

Sphere Science

Interestingly, the sound of table tennis may help players track the ball better than any visual stimuli. Audible cues reach the brain .03 seconds faster than visual ones, and the less sound a ping pong ball makes upon contact, the higher the rate of spin. This is especially important because the ball spins at a rate of 3,000 rpm, and top spin can make a table tennis ball break more than two feet.

While balls accelerate off the racket at over 70 mph at elite levels of play, the low density of the ball and air drag reduces the speed to about 50 mph.

...via China Daily

The spin of the ball is exceptionally important to landing points in table tennis (the rules are essentially the same as regular tennis). Four different types of spin are available to players, each pertaining to some degree to the Magnus effect.

  • Backspin is employed defensively to keep the ball low to the table, and it is hard to produce a good offensive chance from a good backspin serve....via Wikimedia
  • · Topspin provides a late, downward curve after the ball has crossed the net. Once it contacts the table, the ball accelerates, much as it does when it hits the racket. This forces the players to adjust their racket angles to accurately hit the ball back to the opponent. When players play at extreme distances from their side of the table (sometimes 20 feet!), it is most commonly to provide additional reaction time for topspun balls. Each additional foot increases the player's reaction time up to 13%, though it will still be under half a second....via Wikimedia
  • · Sidespin is often used when far from the table to 'hook' around the net. It does not affect the bounce of the ball on the table, yet some adverse bounce can be experienced off the paddle. ...via All About Table Tennis
  • · Corkspin is probably the one spin a CR4 reader couldn't assume, and it is the only serve or lob accomplished with a rotational axis that is parallel to the trajectory. When the ball bounces on the table, it will rebound in the direction of the spin.

So, what do you think of ping-pong now? Not such a kid's game, eh? And you can't be out of shape to play either. Studies have found the VO2 of elite table tennis players to be similar to that off soccer players. Think about that before you try to move that cluttered table tennis, uh…table.

But, it never hurts to pick up a hobby. Do a quick Bing! or Google search for local clubs in your area. Then, start practicing your corkspin.

Resources

Wikipedia - Table Tennis

Sport Science - Table Tennis

Popular Science - The Truth About Table Tennis

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Guru

Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Mossel Bay, SA
Posts: 777
Good Answers: 21
#1

Re: CR4 Olympic Coverage: Table Tennis

08/02/2012 4:44 AM

Glad to see the complexity of the sport is appreciated.... I played tennis and then squash for many years, after which I discovered table tennis.

Generally, in terms of one-on-one reaction time, this is the second-fastest sport around, next to pro boxing. I played competitively for a good while, and the regimen is similar to other sports...training once per week, a home game every other week, and away games in between.

The rubber on the bats is especially relevant at competition level, as traction on the ball radically affects the spin. The bats are priced accordingly...I really loved my Stiger mk V at the time (a Swedish make as I recall).

Thanks for the good post and the nostalgia moment!

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