The Olympics is the pinnacle of the professional Table Tennis calendar.
Where other sports might restrict Olympic events to just amateurs (like Boxing) or have other more significant events (like Tennis), Olympic gold is the one medal every single table tennis player would take over any other.
The roll call of past champions is filled with the greatest table tennis players of all time.
In July and August 2024, 10 more legends will be crowned.
Here’s everything you need to know about table tennis at Paris 2024 as time ticks down towards the greatest show on earth.
Events, Structure & Medals Available
The structure of Olympic table tennis hasn’t changed for over a decade, and Paris 2024 is no exception. We’ll see 5 events spread out across the Olympic schedule:
- Mens Singles
- Womens Singles
- Mixed Doubles
- Mens Team
- Womens Team
Each event has a slightly different structure, which is worth exploring.
Mens and Womens Singles
Depending on qualification, up to 70 players will be in contention for medals in both mens and womens singles events.
A small preliminary set of matches will be held to reduce the field down to 32 players who will enter straight into a knockout format.
With 32 players in the main draw, that presents us with 5 rounds before a winner will be crowned. It almost sounds simple, with just 5 matches standing between qualified players and Olympic gold.
Each match is played as a ‘Best of 7’, with the winner being the first player to reach 4 games. Each game is played up to 11 points, with the winner needing to be ahead by 2 points.
Despite being often overlooked, the mixed doubles is incredibly exciting to watch. It’s also one of the few events where there are consistently strong challenges to China’s domination of table tennis.
In Tokyo 2021, the Japanese doubles pairing of Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito took gold in one of the most exciting matches of all time.
The mixed doubles event hosts just 16 pairings in a straight knockout event, meaning only 4 rounds are played.
The qualification rules mean that only one pairing is allowed per country, so you’re guaranteed to see 3 different countries on the podium.
Mens and Womens Team Events
Similar in concept to the bi-annual team event at the world table tennis championships, this event sees countries face each other in a 3v3 format.
Both the mens and womens team events will feature 16 individual countries who have qualified through regional and international events.
With 5 matches played in each round, you’ll see 4 singles and 1 doubles match played between countries. Each matchup continues until one country has won at least 3 individual matches.
Whilst the ITTF haven’t announced the exact order of the team event yet, Tokyo 2021 saw the doubles played first before the four singles matches.
With 3 players in each team, there will be one player who plays in 2 singles matches plus the doubles players each playing one singles match each as well.
Qualifying for Paris 2024 Table Tennis
Qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics is a tricky and complicated endeavor, with thousands of professional players competing for just 172 spots.
With China commonly having 6-7 players in the top 20 ranked table tennis players, it’s notable that each National Olympic Committee (NOC) is limited to just 3 mens and 3 womens players. For singles, that number drops to just 2 entrants per country.
Unfortunately, that does mean some high profile Chinese players miss out on the Olympics.
If you’re wondering what a universality place is, it’s a single mens and womens spot reserved for players from smaller nations who are otherwise under-represented at the Olympics. These spots are selected by the IOC Tripartite committee.
The qualification process begins with selecting the 32 teams (16 mens / 16 womens) competing in the team events.
Team Qualification – 1 Team Per Nation
France will already be qualified as hosts, which leaves another 15 slots up for grabs. These are firstly allocated to the winners of 5 continental events:
|2 – 3 September 2023
|3 – 10 September 2023
|10 – 17 September 2023
|10 – 17 September 2023
|11 – 17 September 2023
The Americas event is allocated 2 slots as it’s a combination event for both North America and South America.
Following this, 8 teams have earned their spots at Paris 2024 by competing in the 2024 Team World Championships in Busan, Korea. All quarter-finalists qualified for the Olympics if they hadn’t already qualified through the continental events.
|Chinese Taipei (Taiwan)
|Chinese Taipei (Taiwan)
The remaining three slots on the mens side and four slots on the womens sides will be allocated to the top-ranked teams in the ITTF World Team Rankings who haven’t already qualified.
The next event to be confirmed will be the Mixed Doubles.
Mixed Doubles Qualification – 1 Pairing Per Nation
With 15 slots available, qualification follows a similar path as the team events. To start, 6 pairs qualify from winning one of the continental qualification events:
|2 – 3 September 2023
|Nicholas Lum & Minhyung Jee (AUS)
|3 – 10 September 2023
|23 June – 2 July 2023
|Dang Qiu & Nina Mittelham (GER)
|29 October – 5 November 2023
|Jorge Campos & Daniela Carrazana Fonseca (CUB)
Vitor Ishiy & Bruna Takahashi (BRA)
|11 – 17 September 2023
|Omar Assar & Dina Meshref
The same arrangement as the team qualification exists for the Pan-American event which provides 2 mixed doubles pairings for qualification.
Despite Lin Gaoyuan & Wang Yidi winning the Asia event, their quota was declined by the Chinese Olympic commitee, meaning the Chinese team will come from one of the other qualification methods.
Any other aspiring mixed doubles pairings must wait until March 2024 where there will be a Mixed Doubles World Qualification event where another 4 olympic slots are available. Importantly, if a mixed doubles pair qualifies, then those players must be selected for the team event if their nation has qualified.
Finally, Tuesday 7th May is the date to highlight in your calendars as this is when the remaining 5 pairs will be selected based on the ITTF Mixed Doubles World Rankings.
The final (16th) spot belongs to a French mixed doubles pairing as the host nation.
Mens and Womens Singles Qualification – 2 Players Per Nation
The rules to limit qualification to just 2 players per National Olympic Committee (NOC) makes the Olympics singles easily the most diverse event on the Table Tennis calendar.
2 places are immediately assigned to host nation France, so there are 80 slots available in both mens and womens draws.
The first 32 qualification spots are provided to each nation who qualified to the team event. That’s why team qualification is so highly competitive.
The next 22 places are available for athletes competing during continental qualification events between 6 – 12 May 2024.These events are yet to be announced for each continent, so keep an eye out for announcements. The 22 places are broken down as follows:
- Africa – 4 Slots
- Asia – 6 Slots
- Europe – 6 Slots
- Americas – 5 Slots
- Oceania – 1 Slot
Another 15 places are selected on Tuesday 18 June 2024 where a snapshot of the ITTF world rankings are taken. The top 15 athletes who haven’t already qualified, and who’s NOC haven’t reached their limit, will be selected.
Lastly, one man and one woman will be selected for Universality places. These are selected by the IOC’s Tripartite Commission and are designed to provide opportunities for smaller nations to be represented in the Olympics.
Paris 2024 Table Tennis Competition Schedule
Table tennis will kick off with the mixed doubles and both mens and womens singles events. It takes just 4 days to crown the winners of the mixed doubles, compared to a longer 8 day schedule before the final singles match is played.
The first team matches are played the day after the men’s singles final, with a 6-day event before the women’s team winners are crowned on Saturday 10th August 2024.
There is table tennis action on every day of the Olympics, excluding the Opening and Closing ceremony days.
The Paris 2024 Table Tennis Venue
During the 2024 Paris Olympics, table tennis will be played in the originally named “South Paris Arena 4”. This arena is part of the Paris Expo complex, one of Europe’s biggest convention centers.
Built in 1923 to host the Paris Trade Fair, the complex will also be hosting Volleyball, Handball, and Weightlifting.
It’s located in Paris’ 15th arrondissement and is 14km south of the Olympic Village. You’ll find it at number 13 in the map below, roughly 4km south of the Eiffel tower.
The table tennis arena will be able to host 6,650 people at a single session.
The Paris 2024 Table Tennis Pictogram
At every Olympics, a Pictogram is produced to visually represent each sport. The Paris 2024 organizers have already revealed the table tennis pictogram which looks like this:
Favorites to Win Table Tennis Gold at Paris 2024
China continues to dominate table tennis, winning every major title available to them. Recently, they took a clean sweep of all medals at the World Table Tennis Championships.
You wouldn’t want to bet against a repeat at the 2024 Olympics.
Men’s Singles: Fan Zhendong
Womens’s Singles: Sun Yingsha
Mixed Doubles: Wang Chuqin & Sun Yingsha
In both singles events, the main challengers to Fan and Sun will be their Chinese compatriots. China have announced their decision on who’s selected will be based on world ranking points, although this is still a system the coaches can ‘game’ as they select players to compete in different world events.
In fact, it’s possible (but unlikely) that Fan Zhendong and Sun Yingsha aren’t even selected. On the men’s side, Fan’s being challenged by Ma Long (WR 3), Wang Chuqin (WR 2), and Liang Jungkun (WR 5).
Similarly, the women’s side is competitive with Chen Meng (WR 2), Wang Manyu (WR 3), Wang Yidi (WR 4), and Chen Xingtong (WR 5) all challenging for a place at the Olympics.
Are There Any Non-Chinese Competitors Worth Following?
In the men’s singles, there are some exciting prospects outside of China. Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto should be reaching his peak in 2024, whilst Hugo Calderano (South America’s best talent for over a decade) should have a good run. Truls Moregard has already proven himself a thorn in the side of the Chinese team, whilst it’s also hard to ignore the quality of Germany’s former WR 2 Dimitrij Ovtcharov.
The women’s singles is significantly less competitive. Japan will likely nominate the two biggest medal hopes in Mima Ito and Hina Hayata but it’s likely they’ll need to settle for a Bronze medal at best.
The mixed doubles was sensationally won by Japan at the Tokyo Olympics last time. That loss would have hurt the Chinese team, who seem to have settled on Wang Chuqin and Sun Yingsha as their preferred pairing. Japan are likely to provide the strongest opposition again, although Jun Mizutani retired soon after that gold medal win. He’s likely to be replaced by Tomokazu Harimoto who regularly partners with Hina Hayata. The other pair worth mentioning are the experienced Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem from Hong Kong but it’s likely the Chinese pair will prove too strong.
The team events seem like a foregone conclusion due to the incredible strength in depth possessed by the Chinese team. However, Germany, Japan, Korea, and Sweden will prove tough competitors in the mens competition, whilst Japan, Chinese Taipei, and Romania might challenge the Chinese domination in the womens event.
Olympic Table Tennis Rules
If you’re new to table tennis, I’d highly recommend our article on Olympic table tennis rules where we cover everything you need to know in detail.
There are no major rule changes between Olympic table tennis and any other competition.
Like other major events, most matches are held in a ‘Best of 7’ format as opposed to the more common ‘Best of 5’ format. The only exception is that team matches are all played in the ‘Best of 5’ format. Each game is played up to 11 points, with the winner needing to be 2 points clear of their opponent.
Here are some of the rules that most commonly surprise people new to the sport:
- Serving – Players serve twice consecutively. For every serve, they must throw the ball up at least 16 inches before contacting it behind the end line of the table. In singles, you can serve anywhere on the table, whereas doubles requires players to serve diagonally.
- Towelling & Time-Outs – During each match, players are allowed a short break every 6 points to use a towel. Each player then has the ability to call a 1-minute time-out at any point in the match.
- Equipment – Each player is using a racket that must have one black side, and one colored side. A racket consists of a wooden blade, plus two sheets of rubber that must have been approved by the world governing body (ITTF).
- Red & Yellow Cards – Like football, table tennis has a disciplinary system based on cards. Umpires are able to award cards for violation of rules like incorrect serving, time wasting, or unsportsmanlike behavior. A single yellow card is just a warning, but a second yellow card results in points being awarded to their opponent. For repeated violations, or major disciplinary issues, a straight red card may be awarded which ends the match.
A Brief History of Table Tennis at the Olympics
Despite a long history, table tennis first appeared in the Olympic schedule at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The makeup of the sport was different then, with 4 events: mens/womens singles and mens/womens doubles.
It was 2008 before the men’s team and women’s team events were added, replacing the gendered doubles events. 12 years later, mixed doubles was added to the schedule (2020) which lands us at the 5 event programme we’ll enjoy at Paris 2024.
The main headline of the Olympic table tennis story is China’s dominance.There have been 37 gold medals available, and China have won an incredible 32 of them. The remaining gold medals were won by South Korea (3), Sweden (1), and Japan (1).
For more details, check out our article on the history of Olympic table tennis.
Ma Long is the undisputed champion of the Olympics (as well as the GOAT), with 5 gold medals in total. One medal clear of the female trio Wang Nan, Deng Yaping, and Zhang Yining.
He’s expected to qualify for Paris 2024, so will he extend his lead even further?
Frequently Asked Questions
David's been playing Table Tennis since he was 12, earning his first coaching license in 2012. He's played in national team & individual competitions, although he prefers the more relaxed nature of a local league match! After earning his umpiring qualification in England, David moved to Australia and started Racket Insight to share information about the sport he loves.
Blade: Stiga WRB Offensive Classic | Forehand: Calibra LT | Backhand: Xiom Musa
Playstyle: All-Round Attacker