Atlanta, 1 August 1996. Games of the XXVI Olympiad. Table tennis, men's singles: Guoliang LIU of China serves during the singles final versus fellow contryman Tao WANG. Credit: Getty Images
Gossima. Whiff-Whaff. Flim-Flam. Ping-Pong.
Whatever name it assumes, table tennis has come a long way since its introduction as a genteel, after-dinner alternative to lawn tennis in 1890s England. Today, players compete for big money, wield high-tech rackets and volley the ball at speeds up to 160 kilometres per hour. Table tennis has become the world's largest participation sport, with 40 million competitive players worldwide and countless millions playing recreationally.
The game, which debuted in the Olympic Games in 1988 at Seoul, began with cigar-box lids for rackets and a carved champagne cork for a ball. Today, players use specially developed rubber-coated wooden and carbon-fibre rackets and a lightweight, hollow celluloid ball. Various rubber compounds and glues are applied on the rackets to impart greater spin or speed.
Indeed, some glues are banned from Olympic competition - they make the ball travel up to 30km/h faster.