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Olympics - Mens Team Event Guide

Men’s Team – Table Tennis Olympic Event Guide (Updated for Paris 2024)

The men’s team event at the Olympics is one of the most exciting and high quality events table tennis has to offer. Normally a highly individual sport, this is a rare occasion that we get to see the best table tennis players represent their country as a team. 

The format of the event is 3v3, so every nation that qualifies can only pick 3 players to represent their country. This makes for a very interesting dynamic, as the choice of players can mean the difference between winning and losing. 

Everything you need to know about the men’s team event is in this article. We’ll go over the structure, schedule, and stats of the men’s team event, historically, and for the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics. Let’s begin!

Men’s Team Event Structure

The men’s team event structure is as follows: 

The 16 qualified nations will face each other in a single elimination bracket. With 16 participating countries, the event starts at the round of 16 and means a team only needs to win 4 matches to earn Olympic gold.

3 players will play for each of the 16 countries, and they face each other in a 3v3 format. 

Each match-up stages 5 individual matches and whoever takes 3 wins goes through to the next stage. The match ends once either team reaches 3 wins.

Out of the 5 matches, there are 4 singles matches and 1 doubles match. However, the order of the matches hasn’t been disclosed yet. In the previous Tokyo Olympics, the doubles match was played first, followed by the 4 singles matches.

This has historically meant that the doubles match is crucial, as it sets the tone for the match and gives teams a precious lead going into the singles matches.

The team that loses the doubles match then has to win 3 out of the 4 singles matches to win the round, so, provided that the format is the same as the previous Olympics, we’ll have tons of exciting doubles matches to watch.

As there are 3 players per team, 2 of the players will play the doubles matches together and a singles match, and the remaining player will play 2 singles matches. Each player gets to play 2 matches in total.

How to Qualify for Paris 2024

The 16 nations will qualify by meeting the following criteria:

The nations that have already qualified by having won their continental qualifying competition are China, Sweden, Brazil, Canada, Australia, and Egypt.

After the Busan World Table Tennis Championships, another 6 countries secured their place at the Olympics. Japan, South Korea, Portugal, Germany, Chinese Taipei (Taiwai), and Denmark all reached the last 8 to secure Olympic qualification.

The 3 remaining slots will be allocated to the top-ranked teams in the ITTF World Team Rankings meaning we’re likely to see Brazil, Hong Kong, and Slovenia. However, Slovenia are looking over their shoulders with Croatia just needing a few good results to take that final spot.

Paris 2024 Top Seeds

The official seeding is not available yet. However, most nations have already qualified, and among them are some of the favorites.

The strongest national team is China, by far. As of the moment of writing, the 5 top-ranked players in the world are all Chinese. 

China is strong to the point that they’ve never lost! They have won the men’s team event every time ever since its introduction to the Olympics in 2008. In the Paris Olympics, they’ll try to achieve their fifth title in a row.

The Chinese team will almost certainly feature Fan Zhendong and Wang Chuqin. Unless they suffer an injury, we’d suggest they’re nearly 100% guaranteed a spot at the Olympics team event. 

Fan-Zhendong-and-Wang-Chuqin
Source: Xinhua

The third spot is hotly contested. Ma Long, Lin Gaoyuan, Lin Shidong, and Liang Jingkun are the 4 players contending for a chance to represent the strongest national team in the world.

As for the other nations, France, South Korea, Germany, Japan, Sweden, and Chinese Taipei are the only ones with real chances to upset the Chinese, and it’s very likely that one of these nations will get to the final against China. 

If the format is the same as in Tokyo 2020, the doubles match will be crucial, and snatching a win in that match will be crucial for other nations to have a chance at beating China.

Some of the doubles pairings from these nations are extremely strong, such as the Lebrun/Lebrun pair (France) and the world #2 pairing, Lim Jonghoon and Jang Woojin (South Korea). Lim and Jang won the silver medal at the most recent World Championships, ensuring that South Korea are a strong proposition.. 

The-Lebrun-brothers-in-action
The Lebrun brothers in action (Source: WTT)

The Swedish doubles pairings are also extremely strong. In fact, Mattias Falck and Kristian Karlsson won the men’s doubles event at the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships against Lim and Jang. The Chinese team lost in the semi-final.

Even though China is by far the favorite to win it all, if another nation manages to win the doubles match against them, they’ll be placed under a lot of pressure. Fan Zhendong and Wang Chuqin are very, very tough, but they’re not unbeatable. 

We’ll get into the history of this event later on, but we don’t think that the Chinese team is at their strongest. 

China have fielded nearly unthinkable teams in the past, including some of the sport’s greatest players like Ma Long, Zhang Jike and Xu Xin (2016), and Fan Zhendong, Ma Long and Xu Xin (2020). 

I believe those teams were virtually unbeatable. Each of the 3 players were legends playing in their prime. However, I don’t think the same holds true for the current China team. 

Wang Chuqin is the only player who’s looking nearly unbeatable.

In contrast, Fan Zhendong has been dropping many matches he shouldn’t be. Frenchman Alexis Lebrun beat him in late 2023, and so did world #193 Cho Daeseong in March 2023.

He also lost against compatriot Lin Shidong in the QF of the WTT Star Contender Doha, and he’s had many close calls against comparatively weaker opposition. I don’t think his playing level and his confidence is as high as it was a few years prior.

In addition, the 3rd Chinese player will be either Lin Gaoyuan or Liang Jingkun, who are far from unbeatable, a rising but not completely established Lin Shidong, or a 35 year old Ma Long.

As for the teams that can beat them, I don’t think there’s one that stands out from the rest, but rather, many that can upset the Chinese on a very good day.

Hugo Calderano for Brazil, Tomokazu Harimoto for Japan, the Lebrun brothers for France, Dang Qiu and Dimitrij Ovtcharov for Germany, Truls Moregard for Sweden, and Jang Woojin for South Korea don’t forgive any missteps and they are thirsty for glory.

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Paris 2024 Match Schedule

The schedule of the men’s team event is as follows: 

Men's Team Paris 2024 Match Schedule

On Monday 5th and Tuesday 6th August, the first round will be played. That means we’ll get 4 matches each day. 

After that, the quarter finals will be played on Wednesday 7th, the semifinals on Thursday 8th, before the final and 3rd / 4th place match on Friday 9th.

Men’s Team Event History

The history of this event is all about China. Here’s a chart displaying all of the medalists per year.

Men’s Team Event History

China’s domination of this event has been quite astonishing, so we dug up the archives and looked at how they won each of their titles.

It turns out that the Chinese have virtually never lost a single match, at all. Obviously they have never been knocked out, but they have also very rarely lost individual matches. 

It turns out that the Chinese national team’s players have lost 3 matches. Yes, you read that right. Since 2008, they have lost 3 individual matches in total.

In addition, they have never won a series 3-2. The only 3 times that the Chinese team’s players lost a match, they’ve won all of the other matches in that round.

What’s even more surprising, they’ve won the 2008 and 2020 editions without dropping a single match. They won all of their matches 3-0.

The 3 defeats that China have to their name are the 2012 men’s doubles match against Russia (3-2), Timo Boll’s win against Zhang Jike in 2012 (3-1), and Jun Mizutani’s win against Xu Xin in 2016 (3-2).

As it turns out, 2012 was the worst year for the Chinese team, as they dropped 2 matches in the whole competition (they won the event 3-1, 3-0, 3-1 and 3-0). 

I think we have portrayed the Chinese domination of table tennis quite well in this event. The stats speak by themselves. But what about the other nations?

There are only 3 other nations that have won medals at the men’s team event: Germany, Japan, and South Korea. 

In fact, Germany have won the same amount of medals as China, but instead of having 4 golds, they have 2 silver and 2 bronze medals. 

Interestingly, Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov have been a part of all 4 of their Olympic men’s team medals. Will they be able to win a 5th one this year? We’ll have to wait and see!

Timo Boll & Dimitrij Ovtcharov

As for Japan and Korea, they have a silver and a bronze medal each. 

They have also fielded incredibly strong teams such as the 2012 Korean team of Joo Se Hyuk, Oh Sang Eun and Ryu Seung Min, and the 2016 Japan team that featured Jun Mizutani, Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura. 

Unfortunately for both of these spectacular teams, they weren’t able to beat the Chinese in their respective finals.

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The Controller

Alvaro’s been playing Table Tennis since he was 15 and is now ranked within the top 100 in his native Argentina. He loves to compete in provincial tournaments and is always looking for ways to improve. Alvaro made his favourite memories with a racket in hand, and he joined the RacketInsight team to share his passion with other players!

Blade: Butterfly Fan Zhendong ALC | Forehand: Butterfly Dignics 09c | Backhand: Butterfly Rozena
Playstyle: The Controller

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