Whether you are a stroller or a vacationer, the parks have a lot to offer those who frequent them, including participation in fun or more competitive games (or the simple observation of these) in the green squares or the squares sand. Today: table tennis.
Provincial table tennis — or ping-pong — tournaments have been organized in Quebec for about fifty years. Players have even represented Canada at the Olympic Games since the 1990s. But in the parks of Montreal, this sport is mainly practiced as it was imagined by the English bourgeoisie of the 19th century.e century, that is to say as a leisure activity that invites celebration and socialization.
Outdoor ping-pong is also booming in the metropolis, according to enthusiasts met by The duty, especially since the pandemic. “I am a professional fencing coach and player. When the training rooms closed in 2020, I wanted to find other options quickly, ”says Steven Moore-Vountas, 28. With friends from CEGEP, he co-founded a league that brings together dozens of participants every week.
“We play every week in the summer to socialize and exercise in benevolence and self-transcendence”, sums up his long-time friend and co-founder Antonin Rossier-Bisallion. The games of their Outdoor Table Tennis Amateur League (LATTE) are distinguished from official sports competitions by their openness to new players and their festive atmosphere.
A DJ on his own time, Antonin systematically brings his loudspeakers to their gatherings, ensuring an atmosphere with funk, soul and disco accents from the 1970s. “It’s really pleasant, and it brings the participants together, observes Steven. People my age in their late thirties can have a hard time making new friends, but the league has allowed me to meet new people that I look forward to seeing each week. »
A hobby above all
It is somewhat in this unifying and relaxed spirit that ping-pong was created in the Victorian era, first as parlor game (living room game) for the English bourgeoisie. We would have played in the first games with a cork from a champagne bottle as a ball and cigars as rackets. The game as we know it today, with balls and rackets, was then quickly exported to India and China.
The name “ping-pong”, which comes from Asia, probably from China, refers of course to the sound of balls bouncing. In 1901, the company J. Jaques & Son Ltd, now renamed Jaques of London, patented the expression “ping-pong”, which designates its boxes of rackets and balls that it marketed at the time. Therefore, most players and other businesses use the term “table tennis”.
It was also in 1971 that the Quebec Table Tennis Federation was founded, still in operation today, which organized the first provincial competitions. Today, the term “ping-pong” is often associated with everyday language and leisure and “table tennis” with the institutional practice of sport.
Be that as it may, between the Olympic Games and the parks of Montreal, the rules and the game tables are alike. The goal is always to return the ball to the opposing half of the table, separated by a net, without the player (in singles) or the opposing duo being able to return it. A game usually has three or four rounds, and each round is won in 11 points, with at least 2 points ahead of his opponent.
“Pleasure, self-transcendence and camaraderie”
When they practice, Steven and Antonin sometimes try other ways of playing, such as the “roundrobbin”, where the players move around the table as they send the ball to the opposing side. “We alternate between tournaments, one day a month, and more relaxed practices, often in teams of two, with a picnic on the side”, explains Steven.
Antonin specifies that their training sessions, which were organized spontaneously from the first months of the pandemic in 2020, have become “weekly meetings with 20 to 30 participants each time”. “We owe it a lot to the large number of tables found in the parks of each Montreal borough,” he says. Once you start diving into it, you realize that it’s everywhere and it’s easy to attract several people. »
His friend Steven would also like the boroughs to add more to their parks. “Most city parks don’t have more than one table. We would like at least two to share the parks with other leagues. »
For the moment, the level of the two non-professional table tennis players continues to improve, and their league gathers more and more followers. “I really enjoy improving myself in a new sport, and more and more new players are joining us thanks to word of mouth,” says Steven. But after four seasons, our values have remained the same, as Antonin defined them in 2020: we play for fun, surpassing ourselves and camaraderie. »