Table tennis tables reimagined to promote Paralympic Games

ASTANA. KAZINFORM - The Japanese Paralympic table tennis federation created a range of different shaped tables to allow able-bodied people to experience what it is like to play with an impairment, as preparations ramp up for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Kyodo News reports.

The tables, which are not proposed for use at the Paralympic Games, were constructed with playing surfaces of various shapes, from round-ended to trapezoidal and others.

The unique tables allow people to understand how athletes with impairments -- whether they are in wheelchairs, with amputations or any other physical limitation -- experience playing the game.

Twenty tables were created based on interviews with the same number of individual Para table tennis players, according to the Japan Para Table Tennis Association.

One side of the special tables reflects the perspective of a Paralympic player, while the other is standard in size and shape.

Three of the 20 tables, developed by an advertising firm that was commissioned by the association, were unveiled for the first time at an event held last November in Tokyo.

The Iwabuchi table, with its extended left side, replicates the experience of Koyo Iwabuchi, 24, who represented Japan at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games in Brazil.

For Iwabuchi, who has an impairment that does not allow him to put pressure on his left ankle, the left side of the table is more difficult to reach, so the Iwabuchi model has an extended playing surface on the left to let a non-impaired player experience having a disadvantage on that side.

Maharu Yoshimura, 25, the current singles world No. 26 able-bodied player who won team silver at the Rio Olympics, took on Iwabuchi on his namesake table, with his struggles on his left demonstrating the concept perfectly.

The Chada model, with its playing surface extended 43 centimeters lengthwise on one side of the net, was developed based on the experience of Yukimi Chada, a 30-year-old wheelchair player whose stomach and back muscles do not have full function.

"There are spots near the net where I can't reach for the ball no matter how hard I try. I feel I'm very far from the net," Chada explained.

During an event on Jan. 30, Miho Ohashi, the association's special ambassador for promoting Paralympic table tennis, faced Chada on the elongated table.

"I couldn't reach (the ball) despite all my efforts," said Ohashi, a 40-year-old television personality.

The Yagi model, featuring a round-sided table, was designed with the input of Katsuyoshi Yagi, 28, who was born with short arms. Due to his limited reach, the table was made larger in all dimensions to represent his experience of the game, according to the association.

The three tables are currently on display at an exhibition at Toranomon Hills Mori Tower in Tokyo through Feb. 12.

"By experiencing these table tennis tables, I hope people will recognize that disabilities are individual. I want them to become interested in and amazed at the abilities of disabled athletes, rather than feeling pity for them," said Iota Ryoji Tateishi, a 33-year-old public relations official for the association.

"I would like people to understand the difficulty, profoundness and allure of Paralympic table tennis," Chada added.

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