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Sport Overview

In basements around the world, it may be known as whiff waff and flim flam, but in world-class competitions, it’s table tennis at the highest level. The game provides consistently stunning play as competitors control the lightest ball in sport and guide it over a six-inch net and onto a 22.5-square foot half of a table. The array of shots the Pan Am athletes can make and — just as impressively — the positions on the floor from which they can hit them, almost defy physics.

Ten countries won at least one medal in table tennis at the Guadalajara 2011 Pan Am Games, and Canada was one of them, with a gold medal in women’s singles. The Dominican Republic led the pack with three medals: one gold, one silver and one bronze.

In 2015, athletes will compete in both men’s and women’s singles and team competitions.


History

In its early days, table tennis was played as an after-dinner parlour game in upper-class Britain during the 1880s, where a row of books in the centre of the table served as a net, a book served as a racquet and a golf ball was hit back and forth. In 1901, the discovery of celluloid balls and, in the 1950s, racquets made from a rubber sheet combined with a sponge layer changed the game dramatically.


How it works

Also known as ping-pong, whiff waff and flim flam, table tennis is contested in both singles and team events with the matches being determined by the best-of-five games. The game is played on a table measuring 9 feet (2.74 metres) in length by 5 feet (1.52 metres) in width, with each half of the table divided by a net measuring 6 inches (15.25 centimetres) in height. Based on the same principles as tennis where a player hits the ball over the net to their opponent’s side using a variety of shots, this lightning-fast game can see balls reach speeds of over 150 kilometres per hour.


Terminology

Blade
The flat part of the racquet used for hitting the ball.

Chop
A shot aimed downward that causes the ball to backspin.

Drop shot
A return shot that falls just over the opponent’s side of the net.

Loop
An attacking shot that places a topspin on the ball.

Penhold
A popular method of gripping the racquet that resembles holding a pen.

Additional Information

Additional Information