It’s been more than 150 years now since a couple of British gents came up with a game we all love and enjoy so much today. And just like the game itself, the history of ping pong is full of amazing twists and turns. Here’s just a couple of amazing facts you probably didn’t know that will inspire you to grab your paddle right away and have some more ping-pong fun. Or shall we say flim-flam fun?
Fun Fact About Ping Pong #1: Ping pong was called gossima, whiff-whaff, flim-flam…
The oldest recorded use of the name table tennis happened on October 9, 1885 when a British fellow, James Devonshire, tried to officially patent the game. He was rejected and after some time, in 1901, his compatriot and sports manufacturer John Jacques started selling table tennis equipment. He called the game gossima. And he wasn’t the only manufacturer who came up with his own name for the game.
Those were the early days when ping pong was a parlor game played by the British upper class and many sports manufacturers were coming up with different names for it including: whiff-whaff, flim-flam, punch ball and pim-pam. After the gossima thing didn’t really kick off, Jacques came up with a different name: ping-pong. And that’s how the history was made.
Just so we’re clear, there is absolutely no difference between table tennis and ping pong. Two names, one game.
Fun Fact About Ping Pong #2: The greatest ping pong player in history comes from Sweden
Even though Chinese players have been dominating the world rankings for quite some time now, the undisputed best ping pong player of all time actually comes from Europe. His name is Jan-Ove Waldner.
During his 30 year-long career as a professional player, he won 16 World Championship medals in singles and doubles combined as well as a gold and a silver medal at the Olympics, earning the nickname Mozart of Table Tennis.
And that’s not the only name he earned. Considering their passion for the sport, it’s no surprise that he is a big deal in China. They even have their own names for him: Lao Wa (Old Walner) and Chang Qing Shu (Evergreen Tree).
Fun Fact About Ping Pong #3: Table tennis helped restore the relations between the United States and China in the 70s
In 1971, China surprised everyone by inviting the U.S. Table Tennis National Team for a series of friendly matches against the home team. Together with accompanying journalists, they were the first U.S. delegation to visit China since 1949 and the first foreign delegation to visit after six years of self-isolation.
The event marked a major shift in the U.S.-China relations and was followed by President Nixon’s visit to the country a year later. He described it as "the week that changed the world." And according to the Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-lai: "Never before in history has a sport been used so effectively as a tool of international diplomacy."
All of this caused the media to dub the event ping pong diplomacy.
Fun Fact About Ping Pong #4: It’s considered the no. 1 brain sport in the world
And for a good reason. Numerous studies have proved that playing table tennis has immense positive effects on human brain. It helps develop strategic planning and thinking, increase concentration and alertness as well as your long term memory, among other things.
It is why many renowned scientists consider table tennis the no. 1 brain sport, including Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D. Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at New York University and Doctor Daniel Amen from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Legendary New York Times puzzle creator Will Shortz shares their opinion and even compares the strategy required to win a game of ping- pong to “chess on steroids”!
Over to You
Do you know any mid-blowing facts about ping pong that we haven’t listed? Feel free to share them in the comments section!