Monday, May 21, 2001

Table tennis can be a workout

The new Olympic sport good exercise and a fast-paced game

By Carrie T. Henderson
Enquirer contributor

        The other day, my dad and I were talking about the “Green Monster” that lives in our basement.

        When I was a child, it would make lots of noise: “Rat-a-tat-tat.” But now that the children are grown and out of the house, the monster sits silently in a corner. On special occasions he gets a bath and makes a rare appearance holding plates and drinks.

  • For more information about the Cincinnati Table Tennis Club, go to or call Mike Lecture 244-6008
  • “Many Happy Returns” by Susan Brownmiller, My Generation May-June 2001.
  • has histories and player biographies organized by sport.
  • is a table tennis online magazine.
  • offers articles and products.
  • is the site for the official North American sponsor of the U.S. Table Tennis Team.
        Despite the luxury of owning a table tennis table, I was never a great fan of the sport. My older brother would spend more time hitting me with the paddle than the ball itself. I would spend more time looking for the ball than playing the game.

        Table tennis is gaining popularity again as recreation and sport. Table tennis (do not call it Ping-Pong because Parker Brothers owns that name) made its fourth appearance in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Mirroring past games, China swept all events in both the singles and doubles.

        Table tennis is huge in both Asia and Europe, where national championships are televised during prime time. However, this popularity for the competitive sport has yet to hit the United States, where many consider it a recreational basement game fit for a rainy afternoon.

        Mike Lectureof Price Hill, president of the Ohio Table Tennis Association, is trying to bring more attention to the sport in Cincinnati. “It is a sport and people need to train for it,” he says. “We put our children in baseball leagues at young ages, why not consider table tennis?”

        Three nights a week, Mr. Lecture and others take their paddles and balls to the field house at Xavier University. For four hours, the sound of scuffling sneakers, pong on the paddle and tat on the table fills the gymnasium.

        “That isn't fair when you have God serving on your side,” complains one player after losing to his opponent — a minister.The cultural diversity among the Cincinnati league makes the team international. America, Poland, Brazil, China, Russia and Iran are all represented. The professional careers are just as diverse — a minister, student, professor, fireman, policeman, broadcaster.

        Table tennis can be a great source of exercise.

        John Monaco, 45 of Clifton, claims that he can lose up to three pounds in one night of play.

        “The treadmill is too boring for me,” he says. “Table tennis is a fast sport that keeps me moving and energized.” This cardiovascular sport, if played at competitive level, can be a whole body workout. It is more than just planting your feet and moving your paddle arm side to side. Competitive players crouch at the knees and keep their feet constantly moving.

  1880s: Called indoor tennis, played by British army officers in India and South America. Paddles were constructed with lids of cigar boxes and rounded corks from wine bottles simulated balls. A row of books set up across the middle of a table formed the net.
  1901: Englishman John Jacques registered “Ping Pong” as a trade name and sold American rights to Parker Brothers.
  1921: Table Tennis Association established
  1927: First World Championship tournament was held in London
  1952: Horoi Satoh of Japan invented the modern foam rubber paddle
  1971: “Ping Pong Diplomacy” visit with China
  1988: Table Tennis became an Olympic sport
        Larry Hawkins, 50, of Woodlawn, has perfected this stance. He has been playing the sport for 13 years and has a ranking of 1,986 points. The USA Table Tennis Association ranks players according to a point system. The highest level of ranking is 3,000 points. World Class athletes must have a score of 2,000 points. On his way to becoming world class, Larry developed the ability to cover up to 15 feet from the the table. His serves are so fast that, at times, the ball is a mere white speck.

        Because of the speed of the game, rallies are fast and difficult for spectators to follow. In an attempt to slow down the game, the International Table Tennis Federation voted to increase the size of the ball. The standard ball now weighs 2.7 grams and 40 millimeters in diameter. This is .2 grams heavier and 2 millimeters larger than the old ball.

        This may seem like a small adjustment, but experts say that the new, bigger ball slows down the game by almost 20 percent. The size of the ball is not the only change; the traditional white ball can now be seen in bright orange. (My dad will be excited about this new, easier to find ball.)

        Lefty Jim Bracht, 59 of Delhi Township, has been enjoying the competitive game for 10 years. About four times a year he travels to Portsmouth, Ohio, to train with international coach Carl Hardin. Playing at 1600 points, Mr. Bracht says that his skill level greatly improves after each session. He recently traveled to Las Vegas for the U.S. Nationals and competed in the Senior Olympics in Cincinnati. He credits table tennis to increasing his hand-eye coordination.


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