Center Moving to Asia, Sensation of Japanese Penholders

Even though the WTTC stressed the global friendship in Cairo 1939, the Championships could not be hosted for a while since 1940 due to the Second World War. It was told that the Corbillon Cup (trophy for women’s team event) was lost during the war and was produced again. The WTTC was hosted again with Paris 1947 (the 14th WTTC) and East European countries such as Hungary, Czech and Rumania earned good results as well as Western countries such as England and U.S.

▲ Rumania’s legendary defender Angelica Rozeanu won women’s singles for six consecutive times.

The Rumanian player Angelica Rozeanu is the legend of the time. With her defensive style of table tennis, she won six consecutive times from the 1950 17th WTTC to 1955 22nd WTTC which is the most number of wins in history. As individual events are hosted every other year nowadays, Rozeanu’s record is most likely not to be broken.

However, there is another aspect to pay attention to—the center of world table tennis was moved from Europe to Asia. Japan led the movement and it started with the 1952 19th WTTC held in Bombay.

Japan won four events including men’s singles and doubles, women’s doubles and women’s team event while it was their first participation at the Championships. Two years after in 1954 at the 21st WTTC held in London, Ogimura Ichiro won men’s singles, who became the ITTF President in later years. Japan also won men’s and women’s team events at the Championships. At the 1955 22nd WTTC held in Utrecht, Tanaka Toshiaki won men’s singles and made contribution in getting gold medal for the men’s team event.

▲ Japanese table tennis with Tanaka Toshiaki became sensation in world’s table tennis.

The reason Japan could rule the table tennis world involves their playing style and use of equipment. Japanese players employed penholder grip when most of the European players had defensive playing style with shake hand grip. Japanese penholders’ focus on offense and their creativity in using equipment were sensational. Tanaka Toshiaki attached a flat rubber (made by flipping a pimpled rubber) to make a strong spin serve while freely lobbing for defense and smashing for offense.

Japanese penholders continued to rule the world of table tennis. Japan hosted the Tokyo 1956 WTTC, which was the second WTTC held in Asia. At the Championships, Japan won four events including Ogimura Ichiro’s three gold medals (men’s team, singles and doubles) and women’s singles. At the 1957 24th Stockholm WTTC, Japan won five events except doubles events and six events except men’s singles in the 1959 25th Dortmund WTTC. It was indeed the heyday of Japan table tennis.

▲ Matsuzaki Kimiyo took great advantage of the feature of pimpled rubber.

Matsuzaki Kimiyo, the winner of the 1959 WTTC, took advantage of pimpled rubber. The ITTF realized the importance of equipment and limited the rubber thickness to 4mm and pimple length to 2mm, which are maintained until today. The ITTF also fixed the hosting period to every other year from 1959.

Written by_Han In-su | Photo by_Table Tennis Monthly Database & ITTF Museum