One of the most traditional sports in the Paralympic Movement, Table Tennis has been present since the first edition of the Games, in 1960 in Rome. Right from the start, both men’s and women’s events were held.
The sport has experienced some changes over the years. Team competitions began at the 1972 Games in Heidelberg, Germany, and have remained in the Paralympic programme until today, alongside individual events. On the other hand, doubles competitions have not featured in the programme since the 1992 edition, in Barcelona.
Participants are divided into 11 different classes, in line with their degree of restriction in their movements. All players are identified with the letters TT (Table Tennis). Classes 1 to 5 are for people who use wheelchairs, 6 to 10 are for people who can walk, and 11 is for people who can walk, but have a mental disability.
The scoring and other rules are basically the same as for Olympic Table Tennis, under the supervision of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), with some adaptations for Paralympic Table Tennis (PTT).
For Paralympic Table Tennis players who can stand, the rules are the same as for the Olympic sport, apart from in serving – in the case of athletes who are unable to use their free hand, whether because it has been amputated or because they have a disability preventing them from throwing the ball, they are allowed to use the hand that holds the racket to execute the movement. Such permission is only accepted if it is duly noted on the athlete’s functional classification card.
When serving, athletes who use wheelchairs must always ensure that the ball goes past the back line on their opponent’s side of the table – if it goes off at the side, the player serves again as many times as is necessary. They are also permitted to support themselves on the table to return to their chairs after batting a ball back. They cannot do this the whole time, however.
Participants may play with orthotics, prosthetics, crutches and even wearing trainers with special heels to compensate for differences in the length of legs. They may also use a strip or bandage to help attach the racket to their hand, or a racket handle extension, among other resources, in accordance with the needs of each athlete.