One of my favorite niche Olympic sports to watch is table tennis, or ping pong as you likely know it colloquially. Who hasn't picked up a paddle at least once in their lifetime and played a game? I know my college years were filled with time at the table (maybe too much, although I was quite the acrobatic defensive specialist), but it's fascinating to see the absolute best in the world take it on. Today as our Olympic Q&A series continues with the NBC broadcasters of the London Games, we chat with table tennis Sean O'Neill about the sport at its highest level.
Q: What would you say to a casual viewer who may play table tennis recreationally about how the sport is played at the highest level?
A: At the highest level, table tennis is as demanding and competitive as any Olympic sport. The beautiful thing about table tennis is it doesn’t discriminate based on size, height, or strength. Everyone can play and enjoy the sport whether you are 7 or 70 plus! Here is a secret tip of the pros, move your feet before you move your hands!
Q: What are the biggest challenges in preparing for calling an Olympic sport and during the event itself?
A: The biggest challenges in preparing to call table tennis is compiling all the in-depth player profiles. The NBC Research team does a superb job on all the favorites, but in the early rounds there are a number of lower ranked players that we must know just as well. The Table Tennis statistician for The Games is Larry Bavly. He is a very knowledgeable tournament player and the two of us discuss potential match-ups and what to look for in upcoming matches.