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Why Can’t We Have Olympic Table Tennis Champions? – by Bill Neely

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The Modern Olympic Games are rich in tradition, famous, and respected events. They began in Athens Greece on April 16, 1896. Medals are coveted and represent world supremacy in every event won.

Table tennis first became an Olympic Sport in the summer of 1988 in Seoul, Korea. Since the 1896 beginning of the Modern Olympics the U. S. has won 2,298 total medals.

In the 23-years since table tennis became an Olympic sport, the United States has never won a single medal in table tennis. In a proud country so economically blessed and with athletes who compete favorably in most sports, why can’t we win a single medal in table tennis? We submit that it is not simply the lack of athletic acumen.

There are several complications which hinder if not preclude our parity in the sport of table tennis: Perhaps the major reason, from which all other sub-reasons spring is our national cultural disregard for table tennis: The sport is apparently not physical enough for our appetite: There is little money, i.e., signing bonuses and mega-bucks, for excellent play or coaching: Except for a very select few, it is not capable of rendering a decent living for players: Even this few must produce other marketable products (books, videos, recommended equipment, etc.) to survive: There is insufficient corporate support and no government support as in table tennis winning countries. Perhaps the missing ingredient is the lack of a table tennis infra-structure, or grass-root level interest and participation.

According to my research from the USATT, in the entire country there are only 450-young players under age 11 serious enough to play the sport of table tennis. Following the data, only 1,254 players under age 15 and 2,120 under 20 participating in the sport. The largest age group of registered USATT table tennis players is ages 41-60 with 2,998 players. There is no information readily available to show if these numbers are on the increase or decrease by age group. These low numbers may shed some light upon one of the reasons for our table tennis players never standing on the Olympic podium to receive a medal in table tennis for the United States.

Mr. Joseph Newgarden of Newgy Industries is determined to begin the attack of the under-participation aspect of table tennis through his Newgy Table Tennis Schools Program. It will be left to others to address the other needs.

Bill Neely

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