Pong Dynasty: In Table Tennis, Chinese Rule

A common stereotype amongst Asian-Americans, and I am sure specifically Chinese-Americans, is that we play ping-ping (or more properly named, table tennis) and we are good at it. Well, apparently, we are. The Wall Street Journal reports that the top table tennis players in the world are of Chinese decent – including the U.S. Olympic table tennis team:

“The best American and Canadian table-tennis players squared off here last weekend for a chance to represent their country this summer at the Beijing Olympics. Only one of the eight American players was of non-Asian descent. All but three were born in China. Six of the eight Canadians also here vying for Olympic berths were either born in China or of Chinese descent. China’s superpower status in table tennis has created a prickly problem for the sport: Nearly all the world’s most competitive players are Chinese. And that has made for a lot of mixed feelings. Since China has so many top players, many in recent years have changed citizenship in order to play for national teams elsewhere. Most countries — like the U.S. where many think of ping pong as a game played in the basement on rainy days — are glad to have players who will give them a chance in international competition. The downside: Teams full of Chinese players undermine already scant local fan support and, according to some, the development of home-grown talent.”

Table tennis has been an Olympic sport since 1988. Essentially, many international competitions (including the Olympics_ turn out to be Chinese players playing another Chinese player (either of Chinese decent or former Chinese citizenship). However, table tennis’s origins are not from China, but from England in the 1880s.

This is such an issue that the International Table Tennis Federation has passed a rule requiring Chinese to wait before playing for a new country. Those between 18 and 20 must reside in their adopted country for seven years before they can compete at certain international events (not applicable to the Olympics). Those 21 and older can never become eligible! That’s crazy.

I guess the stereotype of Chinese and Chinese-Americans being good at table tennis is only reinforced by international competition. Too bad table tennis in the United States is just not as popular and recognized as tennis. (The last famous Asian-American tennis player I remember was Michael Chang.)

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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