Pupils at a school in Leicester got the chance to compete with Special Olympics GB table tennis champion Patrick Cox during a break time challenge.
Tables were set up for children at the English Martyrs Catholic School this morning (Tuesday, May 15) to enjoy a game of ping-pong and for the council to officially announce a four-week Ping festival in the city.
Headteacher Marius Carney said: “It’s a really special day and it’s wonderful to see people from all over Leicestershire come together to play table tennis. It’s a very popular sport here at our school. Every lunchtime we have a half-an-hour club, which is run by one of our sixth formers. It’s absolutely jam packed with between 30 to 50 students per day.
“I think it’s fantastic to think you can just pick up your bat somewhere in the city and have a game. It’s great to see table tennis and other sports being promoted by the council.”
The month-long festival will be officially launched on June 30, with a day of ping-pong related games and activities for everyone to enjoy. Fifty-eight tables will be popping up in unexpected locations across the cities, with tables being marked ‘Stop and Play’.
Leicester is just one of the eight cities selected to host Ping 2012, which has been organised by Sing London in partnership with the English Table Tennis Association.
Mike Smith from the Leicester Table Tennis League, who is also helping to organise the event, has been playing the sport for the past 60 years. He said: “Ping is a project which started off in London two years ago. They put tables out all over the parks and lots of people simply played – that’s what it’s all about.”
Table tennis is the second largest sport in the world with over 300 million people playing worldwide. Since Ping was launched in 2010 in the UK there has been an increase in over 150,000 participants, with around 350 people recorded to be playing at a competitive level in Leicester.
Steve White, who launched the first table tennis club in Rushey Mead 20 years ago, said: “One of my good passions is sport, and trying to get more youngsters involved. Table tennis is my favourite sport and so it’s a dream come true for me. I started playing in 1957, then played for Leicestershire and my college and various clubs. I even played two international matches and beat the American number one junior, and had the chance to play against the world champion in the 60’s.”
While the basics of the game of table tennis have stayed the same, of course there have been some changes. For examples the bats, which were originally just wooden, now have sponge. The size of the ball has also increased slightly to match the increasing speed of the game, and instead of counting to 21, the scoring system has been adjusted so that games are only played up to 11 points.
Ping receives funding from Sport England’s Innovation Fund, which aims to help get one million more people playing sport as part of the supporting legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.