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Table tennis is on the ascendancy

Table tennis is on the ascendancy

Table tennis is growing in popularity in the UK. As players move up through the ranks, new research sheds light on the benefits of playing the sport.

German-born table tennis coach Olav Stahl, 43, started playing table tennis when he was eight years old while on a family holiday in the Austrian Alps.

When he was nine, his mum took him to visit a table tennis club in Germany telling the local coaches “he is a good player,” reminisced Stahl.

He then took on coaching at the age of 20 and a couple of years ago made it into his full time career.

He has been coaching regularly since in schools around London as well as working with high profile millionaires and soap opera actors.

Stahl is also the secretary of Hammersmith-based Tiger & Dragon Table Tennis Club, one of the leading clubs in central London, according to him, containing five teams.

“It’s coming together,” says Stahl about the state of the sport in the UK.

Table tennis is growing in popularity and English players such as 21-year-old Liam Pitchford (pictured), 45th in the world, making their mark moving in the ranking.

Earlier this year, Paul Drinkhall, ended Great Britain’s 18-year wait for a world tour title after winning the ITTF singles competition in Spain.

“The difference between table tennis here and in China is the education from young age, ” explains Stahl when asked about the state of the sport in England.

“We need more youth coaches, more central London clubs and more activity and availability in schools. It will drive children and parents to give the game a try and will make it professional.”

Emphasising recent successes, Table Tennis England’s senior communication officer, Paul Stimpson added: “Great Britain also won a rare sweep of medals in the mixed doubles in the recent Commonwealth Games.

“UK Sport, who stopped our funding after the Olympics, as we are not a podium sport, is re-considering the situation.

“Recent successes allowed for that and they came despite very limited funding. We concentrate on grass-roots development and see the results,” he added.

Table tennis has been in the headlines recently also due to a positive research from the US.

It found that engaging in the sport reduces the symptoms in alzheimer and dementia patients in hospitals.

“Now a similar research is taking place in the UK, funded by the Bounce Alzheimer’s Therapy (BAT) Foundation,” mentioned Stahl.

“It was set up by Bounce Leisure Ltd who also operates the table tennis nightclub ‘Bounce’ in central London.

“Table tennis improves hand-eye co-ordination and improves cognition. This research is another step closer for increasing the awareness and popularity of table tennis,” said Stahl.

** This piece was originally published on the Sports Gazette’s website on November 7th 2014 **

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