Melissa Tapper at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

Melissa Tapper at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Credit: Twitter/Table Tennis Australia

Table Tennis may fly under the radar for Australia. China has historically dominated the event, and are tipped to do it at Tokyo 2020.

Table Tennis will have five events at Tokyo 2020. For all your Olympic coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Table Tennis at the Olympics is nothing like the pub sport you might think of. Since its introduction at Seoul 1988, China has dominated the sport.

China has won 28 out of a possible 32 gold medals, and the only time China has not medalled in an event was the men’s singles at Seoul 1988.

Mixing it up at Tokyo 2020

For the first time at the Olympics, Table Tennis will see a mixed doubles competition. The mixed event is the only doubles event and is the return of doubles for the first time since Athens 2004.

The other four events are men’s and women’s singles and teams. Each country is only permitted two athletes in the singles events. In the teams, teams of three (including one athlete not in the singles) compete together.

Each teams matchup is called a ‘contest’. It consists of two singles matches, and then a doubles match, and then a further two singles (reverse singles generally). The winner of each contest is the team that wins three matches first.

Each contest is comparable to a singles or doubles match for the purposes of the tournament, which is all done in a knockout format.

The mixed doubles athletes must also complete in their country’s team event, but not necessarily the singles events.

China’s pet event

As previously stated, China has won 28 out of a possible 32 gold medals, and 53 out of a possible 100 medals (at the 1992 event, two bronze medals were awarded in each event).

After Beijing 2008, the rules were changed to permit only two singles competitors from each country, rather than three, after China won all six singles medals. At the two Games since, China has won gold and silver in both men’s and women’s singles, showing the decision probably allowed for other countries to contend for a medal.

China is understandably prohibitive favourites for the singles and doubles competition, with the top four men’s singles players (Rio 2016 Gold medallist Ma Long is ranked third) and six of the top seven women’s singles players (Rio 2016 Gold medallist Ning Ding is ranked fifth).

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Japan has the highest-ranked singles player in both men’s and women’s outside of the Chinese competitors and will be favourites for mixed doubles silver, and individual bronze medals.

Germany and South Korea (men’s) and Japan and Chinese Taipei (women’s) have other highly ranked players and will be threats for the minor medals in singles and doubles.

Australian Team

Xin ‘Chris’ YanMen’s Singles
Men’s Team
Rio 2016
David PowellMen’s Singles
Men’s Team
Rio 2016
Heming HuMixed Doubles
Men’s Team
Rio 2016
Melissa TapperMixed Doubles
Women’s Team
London 2012 (Paralympics)
Rio 2016 (Olympics)
Michelle BromleyWomen’s Singles
Women’s Team
Stephanie SangWomen’s Singles
Women’s Team
Beijing 2008

Stephanie Sang was born in China and emigrated in 2006. After qualifying for Beijing, she got to compete in front of friends and family still in China in 2008. She has been out of competition for a number of years, having and raising two children, but has returned to the competition ahead of Tokyo 2020.

Melissa Tapper is the first athlete to represent Australia at both the Olympics and the Paralympics. After suffering a traumatic shoulder injury at birth, she has lived life with Brachial Plexus Palsy.

Tapper finished fourth at the London Paralympics, losing the Class 10 singles bronze match in five sets. She represented Australia at Rio 2016 in both Olympics and Paralympics, and won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, becoming the first Australian to achieve that accomplishment.

At Tokyo 2020

The singles events and the mixed doubles kicks off on 24 July. The mixed doubles finals will be on 26 July. The women’s singles finals will be on 29 July, and the men’s singles finals on 30 July.

The teams events will kick off on 1 August, with the women’s team event finishing on 5 August, and the men’s team event on 6 August.

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