09 Sep 2021

After the success in New York in 2019, the ITTF World Parkinson’s Table Tennis Championships (WPTTC) this year sees 135 athletes from 21 countries competing for medals from September 9th to 11th in Berlin, Germany.

by Jia Li, ITTF Foundation Communication Coordinator

The World Parkinson’s Championships are an innovative way to demonstrate the benefits of playing table tennis for people with Parkinson’s disease.

More than a competition, the tournament is a global gathering of table tennis enthusiasts aiming to promote the improvement of physical, social and emotional conditions of its participants. Together with the local organising committee YUVEDO Foundation, ITTF and the ITTF Foundation aimed to create a safe space and support system for people with Parkinson’s and their caretakers through WPTTC 2021.

More than a championship

“Table tennis is one of the best sports for people with Parkinson’s. It engages your brain and exercises your body. We are excited to have worked with the YUVEDO Foundation to raise awareness for Parkinson’s, bring people together, help them fight the disease and discrimination.”  Thomas Weikert, ITTF President.

Delayed by a year due to the pandemic and with some participants unable to travel because of local Covid-19 measures, these games are different from the previous edition in New York. With the number of participants doubled since the tournament in 2019, a new classification system and various activities to enhance the social aspect of the event have been introduced.

“We wanted to bring people out of their homes and all players were eager to show what they could do. The new classification system allows players to play against contestants with similar conditions, and with similar table tennis experience. We have introduced the group warmups before the matches. They helped the participants and their caretakers to connect with those with similar experiences and create a support system which is crucial for those affected by Parkinson’s.” Jens Greve, founder, and Managing Director of YUVEDO Foundation, Parkinson’s fighter.

Aleksander Dzembritzki, the State Secretary for Sport of Berlin (Staatssekretär für Sport) extended a warm welcome to the players from all over the world.

“It is an honour to welcome the players to my beloved city. For so long, Berlin has been working towards becoming the capital for para players and tournaments. We are happy to be the home of WPTTC 2021 and wish all the players the best of luck in the next couple of days.”

The researchers from the German Sport University Cologne (Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln), and the University of Kiel are also involved. By interviewing and examining the players on their movements and neural activities, the teams are seeking out a path to a possible cure for Parkinson’s in the future.

Ping Pong Diplomacy as a double message

Celebrating the 50th biennial anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy, the WPTTC 2021 honoured the spirit of table tennis for peace-making by bringing ambassadors from the participating countries to Germany for the opening ceremony. The national flags were handed from the ambassadors to each team as a gesture for their representation.

“The spirit of table tennis is inclusive and universal. It has been demonstrated that table tennis is for ALL, for LIFE. We have seen inclusiveness and universality within WPTTC, as well as the positive social impact this kind of event can bring. Now is the time for us to recognise the power of table tennis in peace-making. Ping Pong Diplomacy is more than a single event that happened 50 years ago or the Unified Korea team. Ping Pong Diplomacy is about making friends and resolving conflicts, be it on the grassroots or state level. Table tennis is the medium to foster harmony and peace. It has been in the past, and it will continue to be in the future.” Leandro Olvech, ITTF Foundation Director.

Supporting the WPTTC 2021 players of their respective countries and territories, the ambassadors presented the country flags to the players.

“We have continuously witnessed the power of sports, especially table tennis for peace-making. It aims to create dialogue, bridge differences, and build friendship through common interests and mutual respect. It is not your opponent you play, it is your partner with whom you enjoy the match.” Ahmed Katheef, Ambassador of the Republic of Maldives.

Thank you, Berlin, for the hospitality, and thank you to all the players, partners, and participants for your determination and dedication. It has been an exciting and fulfilling journey for us all.

We cannot wait to see you again in PWTTC 2022 in Croatia.

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