Racial Stereotypes In Sport
Asians are good at ping pong, blacks are good at running, white folk are good at swimming. These three statements are indelibly stamped on the brains of many sports spectators, as well as competitors.
It's internationally accepted that a black man will always win the 100m sprint at the Olympic Games, white men will claim gold in all swimming contests, and a Chinaman is certain to succeed in Table Tennis. In fact, if any medal eludes China, we assume another Asian nation will eagerly snap it up.
How often do you hear statements by the uneducated (in Table Tennis) declaring the supernatural abilities of Asians at the table? They will say it proudly, and without doubt. But then, who are we to argue? The evidence is completely supportive of the theory that Asians are naturally superior at the sport of Table Tennis. They hold the top positions on the ranking lists, and they dominate most major tournaments.
The question is, can this stereotype be harmful? Clearly the answer is yes. In basketball, if you see a tall black player coming toward you, it's likely the intimidation factor will be higher than if they are white or yellow. This gives them an advantage, and confidence to boot. In the sports science book Bounce, author Matthew Syed reveals in multiple examples from a variety of sources that blacks are not genetically superior runners. Just as Asians are not built for table tennis any more than the rest of the world. In both cases it's the training they undertake, and the optimum conditions. In China the national team hone their skills under tutelage of many of the world's finest coaches, in the perfect headquarters, and they do this almost every day so that table tennis becomes who they are. It's no wonder the Chinese have stood at the pinnacle of global table tennis for decades.
Chinese table tennis players are well oiled machines, not because they were born to be, but because they were made that way over many thousands of hours of purposeful practice among the best, ie their comrades. No other nation can say their players have worked as hard or as consistently as China. This sort of system is difficult to overcome, but it can be managed if other nations put in as much effort and financial support as China does. Beyond that, simply ignore the false racial stereotypes, and Europe easily has the population to equal China's might. Sounds pretty straightforward, but a fixed mindset is difficult to alter. To get past this you have to focus on the facts and consider all player's conquerable. You must embrace the truth that with hard work you can equal their seemingly surreal level.
When you find yourself at 10-10 in the 7th game, there's no reason for you to choke because of your opponent's nationality! So next time you see an Asian at the other end of the table, remember, ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is power.
Above: Table Tennis portrayed stereotypically through the film industry
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