Parker stunned by support

28 July 2012 / 16:03

An emotional Joanna Parker struggled to hold back the tears after getting her London 2012 table tennis campaign off to a flying start.

Parker was visibly nervous after being afforded a remarkable reception by a raucous crowd at the ExCel Arena. The tension initially showed against Brazil's Caroline Kumahara in the first-round contest, but, after winning a tight first game, she never looked back.

In the end, the 25-year-old completed a straight-games victory to send her already-vocal supporters into raptures.

Reflecting upon her success, Parker admitted she had never experienced anything like it in her career to date, saying: "It couldn't have gone better. You prepare for these things, but there is no way of preparing for something quite like that.

"I was quite nervous at the beginning but after winning the first game I felt more comfortable. The crowd were just unbelievable - I wasn't expecting that at all. In table tennis, you don't usually get that many people in the crowd.

"I'm just speechless; I can't find the words to describe how it felt. I've never had the crowd on my side like that before. In the Commonwealth Games in Delhi we played against India and it was like that against us. When it is for you, you feel like you are playing for the crowd too."

The roars that greeted Parker's arrival were then bettered as she left the arena - a moment that will not be forgotten in a hurry.

"All I did was wave my hands at the end and they all went nuts," she added. "It's all very new, but fun as well. I can't stop smiling and that says it all really."

Parker can now soak up the atmosphere for a few hours, with her boyfriend Paul Drinkhall facing his first men's singles encounter at 4:45pm. Drinkhall will no doubt benefit from the support as he tackles Kuwait's Ibrahem Al-Hasan.

"I will definitely stay," she said. "He's got a good chance in his match, but anything can happen in these tournaments. There are just so many other factors that you can't prepare for, but I'm sure he will deal with it well."