The big success of virtual table tennis, “much more intense than in real life”

He pushed the furniture along the wall to have enough space in his living room. It must be said that this is where his training sessions take place, “one to two hours a day”, helmet on his head and levers in hand. At 38, Vivien Loytier is one of the best players in Table tennis virtual, under the pseudonym of Ribou85. “I started thoroughly during confinement, and I have since tried to be very diligent, confides the Vendéen, number 4 in France and in 11th place in the world ranking. What I like is that it’s very intense, much more than in real life. We do not pick up the ball, we chain the points. There are also a lot of tactics. »

This week-end In Nantes, the young man and about twenty other experts in this surprising discipline will meet at the Resource Center for Expertise and Sports Performance (Creps) in Pays-de-la-Loire for the first edition of the very serious French championships in Ping VR. A “spotlight” for this practice officially supported by the French Table Tennis Federation since a few monthsand which is growing at high speed.

“The number of players in the world is estimated at 1.4 million, calculates Stéphane Pachis, the president of the Eleven France community (from the name of the game), with 750 members who communicate daily via a Discord. In three years, 40 million matches have been played! The advantage is that two people can compete from home, whenever they want, even if they are on the other side of the world. You don’t have to be a table tennis player, although about half of our members actually are. »

Ping VR, a real sport?

When you put on the headphones, it only takes a few seconds to immerse yourself in the atmosphere. Small noise and mini jolt when you manage to “hit” the ball, however, you have to be very careful not to lean on the “table”! Then, service, lift, stroller, all shots are possible in theory, as in real life. From there to consider the Ping VR as a real sport ? Yes, answer its practitioners in unison, who do not define themselves “as geeks”.

“Even if some gestures are different, we find the same sensations. And personally, I sweat much more in virtual than in real, whereas I practice for seventeen years, swears Vivien Loytier. What is interesting is that the game made me progress in the ranking in real life. My eye has improved, I have a better analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of my opponents. »

For the French Table Tennis Federation, the objective is that this enthusiasm results in an increase in the number of licensees, less than 200,000 currently, and a rejuvenation of the age group of practitioners. “Many players are attracted to the virtual version thanks to its very friendly and benevolent community, assures Stéphane Pachis. This can contrast with the somewhat cold reception that you find in some clubs when you want to learn. »

Last March, two other disciplines (gliding and cycling) received the delegation from the ministry of sports to develop their virtual version.

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The big success of virtual table tennis, “much more intense than in real life”

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