Rio Olympics Table Tennis Has a Ball Problem

Players say new balls break easily and bounce unpredictably
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2016 3:10 PM CDT
Xiao Na Shan of Germany serves during the women's team table tennis first round Friday at the Rio Olympics.   (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

(Newser) – You know what they say: That's the way the ball bounces. Or maybe that's the way the ball bounces. And that ball just broke in half instead of bouncing at all. The New York Times reports complaints are flying fast and furious among table tennis players at the Rio Olympics due to balls that break easily or bounce unpredictably. "I think this ball is very bad," a player from Qatar said after losing his match. But the complaints aren't just sour grapes. His victorious German opponent said the ball "makes it almost impossible to compete." "The quality is not good," adds another player from Austria.

Table tennis players are using a new type of ball this Olympics. Previous balls were made out of celluloid, but those were incredibly flammable and had to be transported by hazmat truck, Inverse reports. While the new non-celluloid balls can be moved by airplane, they also break more easily. By the end of the first day of the Olympics, at least 18 of the new balls had been broken. One player tells the Times they also seem to get softer as the match goes on. "You can never get used to it," he says. The new balls are also allowed to be an extra 0.1 millimeter across. Players say that small change results in balls that move slower and spin less. At least they're not competing in a green pool. (Read more table tennis stories.)

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