The old saying goes that everything is bigger in Texas, so what better place to hold the biggest World Table Tennis Championships in history?
The Lone Star State’s largest city of Houston was selected Monday as the host of the 2021 world championships, beating out Agadir, Morocco, from the International Table Tennis Federation’s short list. The selection of a U.S. city is historic, as it will be the first world championships held in the United States and the first one outside of Asia or Europe since 1939. The event began in 1926.
It is a fitting choice for 2021 as the ITTF is seeking to grow the game globally and increase participation. The 2019 world championships in Budapest, Hungary — which began Monday — feature a record 609 players from 109 national associations, a figure that is still only 47 percent of the 226 associations around the world. The ITTF aims to move that number as close as possible to 100 percent for 2021.
The selection is also a major milestone for the city of Houston, which by 2021 will have hosted its fourth major world championships. Houston hosted world championships in boxing in 1999 and weightlifting in 2015, and will host the BMX cycling world championships in 2020. The city has hosted numerous U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the past, including marathon in 2012. Houston also bid for the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, though did not make it past the U.S. phase, and is the birthplace of two-time Olympian table tennis player Timothy Wang.
The U.S. is eighth all-time in the world championship medal table but has not brought home any hardware since the legendary Dick Miles took bronze in men’s singles in 1959. The highest-ranked member of Team USA is 2016 Olympian and 2018 Youth Olympic medalist Kanak Jha, 38th in the most recent ITTF men’s world rankings. The sport of table tennis has long been dominated by China, which has nearly double the world championship medals of second-place Hungary.