Historic date: 50 years ago, Australian Ping Pong Diplomacy

Paul Pinkewich, a member of the 1971 Australian team (Photo: ITTF)

Much has been written over the years about the United States team visiting China, following an invitation received at the 1971 World Championships in Nagoya; the outcome being that the following year Richard Nixon, President of the United States, visited the world’s most populous country.

However, less well known is that the Australian table tennis team also accepted an invitation from the Chinese government; Wednesday 21st April marks 50 years since those wearing the colours of the green and gold, stepped foot on Chinese soil.

Australian Ping Pong Diplomacy was enacted, matches, training sessions and cultural visits being the order of proceedings; the effect closer relations were established between the two countries, a fact recognised by Scott Houston, the Chief Executive of Table Tennis Australia.

“The Tour played an important role in China opening their borders to the western world and was a precursor to official diplomatic relations being established between Australia and China.” Scott Houston

The group comprised five members: Dr. John Jackson, the President of the national association and team manager, Noel Shorter was the coach, the players were Ann Middleton (formerly Ann McMahon), Paul Pinkewich and Steve Knapp.

Recently Noel Shorter, Paul Pinkewich and Steve Knapp, the three surviving team members, reunited in Sydney to reminisce and celebrate their historic Tour.

“The Tour is a truly significant piece of Australian and Australian table tennis history and we thank Noel, Paul and Steve for their time in helping to celebrate their historic Tour.” Scott Houston