MEN: Paul Drinkhall, Liam Pitchford, Sam Walker
The Rio recap
China continued their traditional dominance of the table tennis events in Rio, hoovering up all four of the gold medals on offer.
Although Team GB didn’t win any medals, there were some encouraging performances from our three athletes, with Paul Drinkhall in particular shining on the biggest stage.
Drinkhall, a four-time Commonwealth Games medallist, began his campaign with two impressive victories over Serbia’s Aleksandar Karakašević and Singapore’s Gao Ning.
Middlesbrough-born Drinkhall then shocked Croatia’s Andrej Gaćina in six tight sets, becoming only the third Brit ever to make the last 16 of the Olympic table tennis singles.
And he pushed formidable Belarusian Vladimir Samsonov hard in the fourth round, eventually succumbing 4-2 after threatening a stunning comeback following defeat in the first three games.
Liam Pitchford, 23, also had a solid Games, comfortably beating Uzbekistan’s Zokhid Kenjaev before being knocked out in the third round.
In the team event, Drinkhall, Pitchford and Sam Walker won an exciting match against France, before coming up against eventual gold medallists China in the quarter-finals, losing 3-0.
Did you know? Paul Drinkhall finished second behind Theo Walcott in the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award in 2006
Where to from here?
There are tournaments aplenty for our table tennis stars in the not-so-distant future, and here we focus on just some of the major competitions on the calendar.
European Team Championship qualification is already underway, and early November sees Drinkhall, Pitchford and Walker take on Greece in Stoke-on-Trent, before a further qualifier against the Netherlands next March.
At the end of May 2017, the trio will travel to Dusseldorf for the World Championships, before the European Team Championships in Luxembourg, in September.
And like many of our Team GB athletes, Drinkhall, Pitchford and Walker will be working towards the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast, with ten Commonwealth medals already between them.
Did you know? Table tennis was invented in England around 1880, as an improvised after-dinner game using a champagne-cork ball, cigar-box lids as bats and piles of books as a net
Ones to watch
Tin-Tin Ho won Commonwealth silver in the mixed doubles alongside Rio Olympian Pitchford, aged just 16, and won her first national women’s singles title earlier this year.
Her father is an ex-international for Hong Kong, so with table tennis in the genes, the future looks very bright for the youngster.
At just 19 years of age, Sam Walker won Commonwealth Games silver in the men’s team event at Glasgow 2014, before winning team bronze at this year’s World Championships in Kuala Lumpur – England’s first medal at that level since 1983.
Having made his Olympic debut in Rio, Walker already has experience on the biggest sporting stage, and is tipped for further success over the coming years.