08/06/2009 18:17 +0300
| TENNIS |
Gossima. Whiff-Whaff. Flim-Flam.
Whatever name it assumes, table tennis has come a long way
since its introduction as a genteel, after-dinner
alternative to lawn tennis in 1890s England. Today, players
compete for big money, wield high-tech rackets and volley
the ball at speeds up to 160 kilometres per hour. Table
tennis has become the world's largest participation sport,
with 40 million competitive players worldwide and countless
millions playing recreationally.
The game, which debuted in
the Olympic Games in 1988 at Seoul, began with cigar-box
lids for rackets and a carved champagne cork for a ball.
Today, players use specially developed rubber-coated wooden
and carbon-fibre rackets and a lightweight, hollow celluloid
ball. Various rubber compounds and glues are applied on the
rackets to impart greater spin or speed. Indeed, some glues are
banned from Olympic competition - they make the ball travel
up to 30km/h faster.
Men's and women's singles
and teams are the four table-tennis events scheduled at the
Olympic Games. Matches are best-of-five games.
In singles, the top 16 seeds
proceed directly to the main draw, while another 48 players
enter a qualification round. A second 16 advance from that
round. The main draw is a single-elimination tournament. The
semi-finals winners play for the gold and silver medals, and
the semi-finals losers play for the bronze. A similar format
is used for teams, but 32 teams are involved.
Table tennis has a strict
code of conduct that penalises unsporting behaviour, but
that does not stop players from engaging in psychological
ploys to gain the upper hand. Staring out opponents, and
causing delays by towelling off and tying shoes are common
moves. While the players are well-mannered, the names of
particular shots also reveal the game's aggressive and
competitive nature - the Kill, the Hit and the Chop.
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