Last Updated on November 1, 2023 by Sorin Petroj
Disabled athletes can play competitive table tennis too, thanks to para table tennis. A parasport following rules set by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) para table tennis follows many of the same rules – ITTF rules – such as those involving the match process, points scoring, and equipment–as their able-bodied counterparts.
Para table tennis has several classifications allowing for disabled people with all different levels of ability to participate.
It’s now practiced in over 100 countries and has become the third-largest Paralympic sport by way of the number of players. Like any other sport or parasport, it also has its major tournaments, teams, players, and fascinating statistics.
Para Table Tennis Qualifying Impairments
The eligibility criteria for para table tennis are based on the player’s physical impairment, with classifications ranging from Class 1 to Class 11.
Each class has its own unique set of criteria, which can include factors such as muscle strength, range of motion, and coordination. The eligibility criteria ensure that athletes compete against individuals with similar physical impairments, creating a level playing field.
However, to compete in para table tennis, athletes must meet certain eligibility criteria based on their level of impairment. These criteria are used to ensure fair competition and equal opportunities for all athletes.
To be eligible for para table tennis, you must have one of the following impairment types:
- Ataxia – Read More
- Athetosis – Read More
- Hypertonia – Read More
- Impaired muscle power – Read More
- Impaired passive range of movement – Read More
- Intellectual impairment – Read More
- Leg length difference – Read More
- Limb deficiency – Read More
- Short stature – Read More
To compete in para table tennis at an international level, athletes must also go through a rigorous qualifying process.
This process involves competing in various competitions and tournaments to earn ranking points. Athletes with the highest ranking points in their respective classifications are then eligible to participate in international competitions such as the Paralympic Games.
Para Table Tennis Classification
There are 11 classes of para table tennis: TT1-TT5 for players in wheelchairs; TT6-TT10 for players with disabilities that permit them to stand and play; TT11 for players with intellectual impairments.
Here are the distinctions between the para table tennis classes in finer detail.
- Class 1 – No balance sitting, and function is severely reduced in the playing arm
- Class 2 – No balance sitting, and function is reduced in the playing arm
- 3 – No balance sitting, though there may be activity in the upper portion of the trunk, though the non-playing arm can stabilize it, and arms function normally with some slight possible motor loss in the playing hand that doesn’t significantly affect play
- 4 – Balance sitting, though less than ideal due to a lack of pelvic stabilization or anchorage
- 5 – Trunk muscles function normally
- Class 6 – Arms and legs severely impaired
- Class 7 – Legs impaired very severely or playing arm moderately-to-severely impaired or legs and playing arm both impaired but less severe than Class 6
- 8 – Legs or playing arm moderately impaired or moderate hemiplegia, cerebral palsy, or diplegia with playing arm
- 9 – Legs or playing arm mildly impaired or non-playing arm severely impaired or mild cerebral palsy with monoplegia or hemiparesis
- 10 – Legs or playing arm very mildly impaired or non-playing arm severely to moderately impaired or trunk moderately impaired
Para Table Tennis Equipment Stats
The International Table Tennis Federation ITTF sets certain parameters governing the fair play of the sport.
- Tables are 9′ long (2.74m), 5′ wide (1.52m), and 2.5′ high (76cm.)
- The net is 6″ high (15.25cm.)
- Table construction should contain no obstacle that could keep a player in a wheelchair from being able to fully access the table’s playing surface or avoid the threat of injury.
- The ball used in the game is 40mm in diameter and weighs 2.7g.
- Players use a laminated wooden ping pong paddle or “racket” with ITTF-approved rubber covering each side.
Para Table Tennis Tournaments Across the World
There are five sanctioned international para table tennis tournaments. Every year, one of the first four tournaments takes place with the cycle repeating in the same order every four years, as follows:
- Summer Paralympics Games – Sanctioned by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC)
- Regional Championships (Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania) – Sanctioned by the ITTF Para Table Tennis Division and various continental associations
- World Para Table Tennis Championships – ITTF-sanctioned
- Regional Championships
- International Tournament (held annually in a different host city each time)
Para Table Tennis Major Winners
After his YouTube video went viral, Ibrahim Hamadtou of Egypt became one of the most widely known para table tennis players. A Class 6 champion who holds the racket in his mouth, he won silver medals in the 2011 and 2013 African Para Table Tennis Championships.
Natalia Partyka is a four-time Olympian in Class 10 representing Poland. Lacking a right hand and forearm, she competes in events for both able-bodied and disabled athletes. She reached the top 32 in the women’s table tennis event at the 2012 London Olympics.
The top-ranked para table tennis athletes are:
- Men’s wheelchair senior singles – Feng Panfeng (Class 3) of China
- Women’s wheelchair senior singles – Bian Zhang(Class 5) of China
- Men’s standing senior singles – Patryk Chojnowski (Class 10) of Poland
- Women’s standing senior singles – Natalia Partyka (Class 10) of Poland
- Men’s wheelchair senior doubles – Mitar PaliKuca (Class 5) of Serbia
- Women’s wheelchair senior doubles – Bian Zhang(Class 5) of China
- Men’s standing senior doubles – Mateo Boheas (Class 10) of France
- Women’s standing senior doubles – Natalia Partyka (Class 10) of Poland
- Men’s wheelchair senior mixed doubles – Abdullah Ozturk (Class 4) of Turkey
- Women’s wheelchair senior mixed doubles – Yoon Jiyu (Class 3) of Korea
- Men’s standing senior mixed doubles – Dian David Mickael Jacobs (Class 10) of Indonesia
- Women’s standing senior mixed doubles – Tian Shiau Wen (Class 10) of Taipei
What are the ITTF rules and regulations of para table tennis?
The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has established specific rules and regulations for para-table tennis to ensure fair play and consistency in competition. These rules apply to all para table tennis competitions sanctioned by the ITTF, including the Paralympic Games and other international events.
One of the most important rules in para table tennis is the classification system. As mentioned earlier, players are classified according to the level and type of their physical impairment.
This classification system allows for fair competition between players of similar abilities. The ITTF has also established guidelines for the classification process, including medical examinations and on-court assessments.
Another key rule in para table tennis is the size and shape of the playing surface. The ITTF has established specific dimensions for the table and net, as well as guidelines for the surface materials and markings. These rules ensure that the playing surface is consistent across different competitions and that players can adapt their playing styles accordingly.
Para Table Tennis Equipment Rules
The ITTF also has specific rules for the equipment used in para table tennis. Players are allowed to use adapted equipment, such as specialized paddles or prosthetic devices, as long as they meet certain criteria. The ITTF has established guidelines for the size and shape of paddles, as well as rules for the types of materials that can be used.
In addition to these rules, the ITTF has established guidelines for the conduct of players and officials during para table tennis matches. These guidelines cover areas such as sportsmanship, etiquette, and communication. Players are expected to exhibit good sportsmanship and fair play, and officials are responsible for enforcing the rules and maintaining a safe and fair playing environment.
Overall, the ITTF rules and regulations for para table tennis are designed to promote fair play, consistency, and safety in competition. These rules are essential for ensuring that players of all abilities have the opportunity to compete and excel in the sport of para table tennis. By following these rules, players can compete on an equal footing and showcase their skills to the world.
Table Tennis in Film
Table tennis in general and para table tennis in particular have made their way onto the big screen. The few films devoted to para table tennis–are “Para PingPong × Art Project” (Japan); “The Most Challenging Pingpong Table” (Japan); “Get Inspired” (UK); and “Dimas Game” (Canada). They are not yet available for streaming on any of the top streaming services. There are many films about or depicting table tennis:
- “Forrest Gump” (1994) – fuboTV, Netflix, Paramount Plus, Vudu
- “Balls of Fury” (2007) – DIRECTV STREAM, Starz on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV
- “Ping Pong Playa” (2007) – Tubi TV, Plex, Freeview Amazon Channel
- “As One” (2012) – KoreaOnDemand
- “Ping Pong” (2012) – The Roku Channel, Tubi TV, Kanopy, Fandor, Pluto TV
- “Top Spin” (2014) – DIRECTV STREAM, Amazon Prime Video, Paramount Plus, Epix on Amazon Prime Video, Kanopy
Fun Facts About Para Table Tennis
The first Paralympic Games to include table tennis was in 1960 in Rome, Italy–28 years to para table tennis being included in the Olympic Games.
This was for players in wheelchairs only until the Toronto Paralympics in 1976 when the first competitions for standing players were launched. The first Para Table Tennis World Championships took place in 1990 in Assen, Netherlands.
Para Table Tennis – Summary
Since 1960, athletes with disabilities have been able to compete professionally representing their country in internationally sanctioned para table tennis competitions. Like many sports, in addition to its variety of players, teams, and tournaments, para table tennis also boasts many devoted fans around the world.
Para-table tennis is a sport that provides individuals with physical disabilities the opportunity to participate in a fun and competitive activity. The sport has grown significantly in popularity over the years, with more and more athletes with impairments participating in tournaments and competitions at the local, national, and international levels.
Statistics show that the sport is becoming more accessible and inclusive. For example, the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio saw over 200 athletes from 48 countries competing in para table tennis. The sport has also been included in numerous other international competitions. For example, the World Championships and the Para Pan American Games.
In addition, para-table tennis has also been recognized for its positive impact on the physical and mental health of individuals with disabilities.
The sport provides a low-impact form of exercise that can improve cardiovascular health, increase muscle strength, and improve hand-eye coordination. It also promotes social interaction and a sense of community among athletes with impairments.
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