The Olympics are now behind us and what an amazing series of events, from the fantastic opening night to the closing ceremonies. The U.S. team did a wonderful job representing us from the track and field events to the Women’s Gymnastics. Besides the U.S., China was a big winner in these Olympics, in medals and in so many other ways. They won a medal in most events but nowhere did they dominate as they did in Table Tennis.

The Chinese entries in the Table Tennis competition were, of course, Chinese but many other countries had Chinese immigrants as their entries, including five of the six competitors who represented the U.S. Of the top 32 seeds in the men and women’s competition 19 (58 percent) were born in China. Now that’s domination.

How the Chinese became so good at Table Tennis is a good story that reaches back into the history of the World War II. China’s success in this game we call Ping Pong had its birth 60 years ago as a drug rehabilitation program with Mao Zedong, the long time dictator of China, the author.

Mao had been a general in the Chinese army fighting the invading Japanese from the caves of the northwest mountains. When the war ended, Mao and his followers began a revolution against General Chaing Kai-shek who was the leader of the Nationalist Chinese forces. Mao’s army won that war and pushed the Nationalist forces off of the mainland to Taiwan, where they remain today.

At the end of the war, the country was devastated, with crops ruined and hunger everywhere. Mao could not release his 2.5 million man army to go home to complicate an already disastrous situation. Instead, he kept them together in military camps. With nothing to do the men began to turn to Opium, Heroin, and other drugs.

Mao had played Table Tennis before the war and knew that a person on drugs could not hit a Table Tennis ball. The rehab plan called for every person to take a turn playing Table Tennis every day under close supervision as a part of their physical training. They made make-shift tables out of concrete, used a board for a net, and made paddles out of wood. Supervisors could then identify the drug abusers and they were sent off to special camps. When the men were finally released to go home, Mao directed that every community would have a Table Tennis rehab program. Within months, 500 million Chinese were playing Table Tennis.

Sixty years later, the U.S. has 10,000 Table Tennis tournament players. China has 40 million. The U.S. has another 20,000 recreational players. China has more than 100 million. Is it any wonder that China dominates in Table Tennis? Will we catch up soon?

Don’t hold your breath.

— Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. You will find Hopkins’ latest book, “Journey to Gettysburg,” on Amazon.com. Contact him at presnet@presnet.net.