This session, we’ll consider two net-based disciplines, scheduled for the upcoming Paralympic Games of London 2012.

My thanks to the folks at:

the official London 2012 Paralympics website, for facts and figures.


Table Tennis and Sitting Volleyball

Table Tennis, and Sitting Volleyball.

Table Tennis

With 29 medal events and nearly 300 athletes, Table Tennis is one of the largest sports on the Paralympic program.

Wheelchair Table Tennis has been part of the Paralympic program since the first Games at Rome in 1960 (28 years before the sport made its mainstream Olympic debut). Events for standing players were first included at the Toronto 1976 Games.

Poland’s Natalia Partyka made her Paralympic debut at Sydney 2000 – aged just 11. She competed at both the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games, and is one of only two athletes to do so.

At London 2012, the schedule of matches will look like this:

Men’s competition

Men’s Team – Class 3
Men’s Team – Class 4-5
Men’s Team – Class 6-8
Men’s Team – Class 9-10
Men’s Singles – Class 1
Men’s Singles – Class 2
Men’s Singles – Class 3
Men’s Singles – Class 4
Men’s Singles – Class 5
Men’s Singles – Class 6
Men’s Singles – Class 7
Men’s Singles – Class 8
Men’s Singles – Class 9
Men’s Singles – Class 10
Men’s Singles – Class 11
Men’s Team – Class 1-2

Women’s competition

Women’s Team – Class 1-3
Women’s Team – Class 4-5
Women’s Team – Class 6-10
Women’s Singles – Class 1-2
Women’s Singles – Class 3
Women’s Singles – Class 4
Women’s Singles – Class 5
Women’s Singles – Class 6
Women’s Singles – Class 7
Women’s Singles – Class 8
Women’s Singles – Class 9
Women’s Singles – Class 10
Women’s Singles – Class 11

Each country is limited to three athletes in each Singles event, and one team in each Team event.

Classification of athletes takes this form:

1-5: wheelchair athletes
6-10: standing athletes
11: athletes with intellectual disabilities

Within the wheelchair and standing classes, the lower the number, the greater the impact the impairment has on an athlete’s ability to compete.

The Table Tennis table is the same as that for mainstream Olympic matches: 2.74m long and 1.525m wide. It is 76cm above the floor and divided in half by a 15.25cm-high net.

Table Tennis is based on the same basic principles as Tennis, but it has a very different scoring system. Singles matches are played over the best of five games, with the first player to 11 points (by a margin of two clear points) winning each game. Team matches consist of four singles matches and one doubles match, each played over the best of five games.

Each team consists of either two, three or four players, and matches end when a team has won three individual games.

In Doubles matches, standing players take turns to hit the ball, with one hit each before alternating. In wheelchair Doubles, either player of the pair may make returns after the receiver has returned the serve.

Unlike in Tennis where a player serves for a whole game, in Table Tennis the service changes after every two points have been scored. Once the score gets to 10-10, the serve changes after every point. In Doubles games, as well as the serve alternating between teams, it alternates between players, too.

The Singles events start with a group stage, with the best players progressing to the knockout stages. The Team events are run in a knockout format. Players and teams progress through the draw until the finals. The winners of the semi-finals play in the gold medal match and the losers of the semi-finals compete for the bronze medal.

An umpire and assistant umpire sit or stand on either side of the table, in line with the net. They are responsible for ensuring the game is played within the rules and that the score is kept and announced accurately.

Sitting Volleyball

Sitting Volleyball emerged in the Netherlands in the 1950s, a combination of Volleyball and a German game called Sitzbal. It is now played by athletes in more than 50 countries around the world.

Sitting Volleyball is played by two teams of six.

The object of the game is to land the ball in the opposition’s half of the court.

The rules of Sitting Volleyball are very similar to its mainstream Olympic counterpart. However, a part of an athlete’s body between the buttocks and the shoulder must be in contact with the court whenever a shot, or attempt at a shot, is made.

Each team is allowed three touches of the ball before it must cross over the net (in addition to a legal block).

The key attacking move is the set and spike, in which a player feeds the ball (the set) for a teammate to hit it into the opposition’s court (the spike).

The match starts with three front-row players in a line near the net, and three back-row players in a line towards the back of the court. At each serving opportunity, the players rotate one space.

Each team has the opportunity to have one libero amongst their players on court. The libero is a specialist defensive player, and may not play any attacking shots. The libero is easy to identify, as their kit is a different color to the rest of the team.

The Sitting Volleyball court is 10m long and 6m wide. It is divided into two halves by a net that is 1.15m high for the men’s game, and 1.05m high for the women’s.

Ten teams compete in the men’s, and eight teams in the women’s competitions, with 11 athletes on each team (six players and five substitutes).

Each country is limited to one men’s and one women’s team.

In Sitting Volleyball there are two categories of classification: disabled and minimal disablility. A maximum of one minimally disabled player may be on the court for each team at any one time.

Both the men’s and women’s Sitting Volleyball competitions begin with a preliminary phase. The teams in each event are divided into two pools of five in the men’s, and two groups of four in the women’s competition. Each team plays every other team in their pool. The top eight teams in the men’s, and the top four teams in the women’s competition qualify for the knockout phase, with the winners of the semi-finals going head to head for the gold medal.

All matches are the best of five sets, with the first four sets going to 25 points. The fifth set goes to 15 points, and all sets must be won with at least a two-point advantage.

Two referees oversee each game. They are assisted by scorers, who sit at the scorers’ table, and line judges, who stand at the corners of the court and indicate various line faults with the use of flags.

A card system is used for more serious infringements, such as rude conduct. A yellow card results in a point being awarded to the opposition, a red card will see a player expelled for the remainder of the set, and a red and yellow card together means disqualification for the rest of the match, but with no loss of points.

When a player is expelled or disqualified, if a team is able to make a legal substitution, they are forced to replace the player. If a team is left with fewer than six players or no legal substitutions remaining, they will automatically concede the set or match respectively.

Sitting Volleyball made its debut as a Paralympic medal sport at the Arnhem 1980 Games. The women’s event was added to the Paralympic program in 2004.

Okay. That’s it, for now.

See you soon, I hope.