Table tennis has been a part of the Summer Olympics since its debut at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Since the 1950s, China has been a dominant force in table tennis, winning 53 medals in 32 events, including 28 golds.
Due to China's hegemony in the sport, the format was changed in the 2012 London Olympics, where only two competitors from each country could enter instead of three. This ensured that one country does not win all three top medals as had been the case in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where China dominated and won all 6 medals.
In the 2008 Games, the men's and women's doubles were replaced by team events. Further, the 2021 Tokyo Olympics will feature mixed doubles in table tennis for the very first time in Olympic history.
Let's take a look at the top 5 countries that have won the most medals in table tennis at the Summer Olympics till now.
#5 Japan - 4 medals
Japan has won four Olympic medals, including 2 silver and 2 bronze medals till now. The 2016 Rio Olympics was the most prolific edition for Japan as it won 3 out of its 4 Olympic medals.
Jun Mizutani scripted history by winning the country's first Olympic medal in singles. He beat Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus 4-1 in Rio to clinch the bronze medal. Furthermore, Japan's first men's team Olympic medal also came at the 2016 Olympics, where they won silver.
Notably, Japan has won medals in the women's team event in two Olympics in a row. While they won silver at the 2012 London Olympics, they went on to win a bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
#4 Germany - 7 medals
Germany has won 7 Olympic medals, including 3 silver and 4 bronze till now. The country won its first Olympic medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, which was a silver in men's doubles.
Jörg Rosskopf and Dimitrij Ovtcharov are the only men's singles players from Germany to win an Olympic medal. While Rosskopf won bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Dimitrij stood third at the 2012 London Olympics.
Furthermore, the men's team won silver at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and bronze at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics. Germany's women's team clinched its first Olympic medal — a silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
#3 Sweden - 3 medals
Though Germany and Japan have earned more medals, Sweden holds the edge because of the lone gold medal it won. The country earned its first Olympic medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where Erik Lindh finished in third place.
Jan-Ove Waldner often referred to as the 'Mozart of table tennis', is one of the greatest table tennis players of all time. He competed at five Olympics and clinched his first gold in men's singles at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It was followed by a silver at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
#2 South Korea - 18 medals
South Korea is the second-most dominant country in the Olympics in table tennis. The country has won 18 Olympic medals, including three gold, three silver, and twelve bronze medals.
In the 1988 Seoul Olympics, when table tennis was first included in the mega-event, South Korea won four medals. The men's singles final was an all-South Korean affair, where Yoo Nam-kyu defeated compatriot, Kim Ki-taik to win the gold. The third medal was a bronze in men's doubles. The second gold was won in the women's doubles category.
Later, Ryu Seung-min won a third gold medal for the country in men's singles at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
#1 China - 53 medals
China is the most dominant country in table tennis at the Summer Olympics. Since table tennis became an official sport at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Chinese athletes have dominated the sport, winning 53 medals, including 28 gold, 17 silver, and 8 bronze.
Since 1996, China has missed out on the gold medal only once in men's singles, which was at the 2004 Athens Olympics. They won all the gold medals at Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio 2016, just as they had done at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000.
Several Chinese players have dominated the sport in the Olympics with Deng Yaping being the first of them. She won both singles and doubles gold medals at the 1992 Olympics and repeated this feat at the 1996 Games. She was also the first Chinese athlete to win four Olympic table tennis gold medals.
The other Chinese players who have medalled multiple times at the Olympics include Zhang Yining, Liu Guoliang, Zhang Jike, and Ma Lin.