Interview with Paul Drinkhall of GB table tennis chats with men’s table tennis number one Paul Drinkhall

When we caught up with British Table Tennis number one Paul Drinkhall he had recently returned from a Chinese boot camp at which he was able to train with some of the best the sport has to offer. Highly rated Drinkhall brought home a silver and bronze medal from the 2010 Commonwealth games in Delhi and managed to pin him down for an interview as he prepares for the 2011 English Open and, of course, London 2012.

Q. How's your training going?

A. I'm doing good. In the New Year I flew out to china I had two and a half weeks of training out there with the national team. That was a great experience. They've never let any European athletes go out there before but I beat two of their young top players and the top guys then said I could come over and train. In the future I hope I can go back. I think I can improve my game so much out there and with London around the corner, the Chinese are the best in the world and they're the guys I need to be training with.

The main difference is the amount of players. In England we struggle for strength and depth we've got a lot of good young players but at the top we are struggling. Out there they've got maybe 20 to 40 players in the training hall every day that are a good level ... We've got 5 or 6. So we need to be out in China as much as possible.

Q. What has success at Delhi and previously done for your confidence?

A. It's mainly knowing and believing that you can win. I've seen a lot of players in the past freeze ... the best players can freeze. It's one thing being good enough ... it's another going through to actually winning it. Knowing that I have won at a young age has given me confidence to go on and do it in the seniors.

Q. What lies ahead in the run up to 2012?

A. I need to get as much time to go out to China or out to Germany (Europe's top table tennis nation) and get as much practice as I can leading up to 2012. I've been playing and getting experience in a lot of matches but ... I need to train more to beat the players that I should and get results when I don't play well. It is improving that steady level and moving up the rankings.

Q. As a young athlete what got you into the niche sport of table tennis?

A. It was a surprise for me as well. I was about seven when I started and used to play a lot of tennis before that. My granddad used to play in a local league just at a small church. My parents took me and my brother along one time and ... we had a little knock. We were ok at it and we were having go so we started going every week. It picked up from there. Then I had to choose between table and tennis and I just really enjoyed table tennis and the different spins etcetera. I was playing a few tournaments and meeting people and really enjoyed it so it kicked off from there.

Q. What is it that drives you to succeed?

A. Everything I do I want to be the best at. I don't like going to tournaments and losing. I know that at the moment that will happen, the more I train and the more practice I get, I know that I'll improve and have less chance of losing. I hate knowing that ... I could have done more to win. The motivation is me always wanting to win at everything. Obviously, with London round the corner, what an opportunity to even compete in an event in your home country. I don't want to just compete I want to compete for medals and improve my profile and the profile of table tennis in England.

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