Dad-to-be and England’s No.1 Table Tennis Player, Paul Drinkhall reflects on a successful year and looks forward to the rest of 2015

Paul, let’s look back quickly to 2014. What were your highlights of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year?

The gold medal in the mixed doubles was the main highlight for me and my main memory. It was great for the England Team to have won that Silver medal, but naturally we were really looking to get gold, as we always do.

Although it was good to get the silver medal with the Team, it was amazing to get the gold myself, a real personal achievement and I am proud of thae fact that I was able to do that for Team England.

The Games were amazing, however we didn’t get the chance to go to the opening ceremony as we were competing. We were fortunate enough to go to the closing ceremony and even though we were knackered, it was great!

I will always be able to look back at Glasgow with great memories and pride.

Speaking of Team England, how did Team England help you to reach the levels of success you achieved?

The Team England camp was great in Glasgow. We had a fantastic complex where all the sports stay, with great support staff, physios and all the doctors you could possibly need which helped a lot.

Beforehand we had some training camps which helped to bring the Team England Table Tennis team together leading up to the Games. We went into the village shortly before hand, met a few of the other athletes and it was a great atmosphere within the Team.

Of course, 2015 is shaping up to be a massive year across the board for sport in England, what are you particularly looking forward to?

I really enjoy playing lots of other sports, but I don’t really watch too many in all honesty. I think it’s mainly because I just don’t have the time and I am fully focused on Table Tennis. But yes, it’s a massive year for England in a sporting sense and I wish all of England’s teams the best of luck!

One highlight of 2015 for me is that fact that my wife Joanna and I are expecting our first baby in May. We’re expecting a boy and we can’t wait. So as you can imagine, that is going to be a big highlight and focus for us in 2015.

My family and wife’s family will be able to help us so we can continue with our Table Tennis careers. Of course, lots of people have to balance a career with parenhood so I have got to try and make the best of it and hopefully it will bring out more in my in my table tennis life as well.

Let’s look ahead to the Heritage Oil Cup?

The Heritage Oil Cup is a fantastic tournament for world table tennis as is brings some of the world’s biggest international players over to compete.

Last year, a fantastic job was done in advertising and publicising it and it made it onto BT Sport, which is an achievement in itself as not many sports within the UK can do that. It’s becoming one of the major tournaments now, and it’s good prize money compared to the other competitions.

I am particularly looking forward to it as I’ve never played before. Last year it was just before the Commonwealth Games and I had just come back from a hip operation so I didn’t want to do too much so close to the Commonwealth Games and risk injuring myself before the tournament. So, I am looking forward to playing it for the first time and hopefully getting some good results and some good publicity for table tennis and for myself.

At last year’s World Table Tennis Championships you were a key member of the England team which gained promotion to the top tier of world table tennis, are you excited about your selection this year with Liam Pitchford?

I have played quite a few World Championships already but I think this is one of the first one’s I have played where I have been highly ranked and I have got some good wins on the back of this season. I am in some of the best form of my career so I am feeling positive ahead of it.

Liam and I can both go there and do good things and it’s in China, which is obviously a great table tennis country so I am really excited to hopefully improve on my form and keep it going.

What are your other plans for 2015 and what else is circled on your calendar over the next few years, especially in the build up to Rio and the Gold Coast?

I am playing for a French club next season so that will be a big part of my calendar in preparation for Rio and the 2018 Commonwealth Games. I hope that the French League will help me to improve my game and help me develop.

Moreover, the European Games are this summer, it’s a first time event so that will be really interesting and is very exciting.

So, mainly the French League and international pro tours are the big highlights on my calendar this year. I will sit down over the next few months and decide which ones to play, set a schedule and choose what is the best preparation for the upcoming competitions.

The Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa are fast approaching. What are your top tips for Team England’s young athletes?

Enjoy it, it’s a big event and some people go to these multi-sport events for the first time and worry about all the multi-sport elements to it. But when you come back to your sport, you are just doing the same thing you do day in and day out, so you just need to focus on that, get the job done and then afterwards you can enjoy the village and the multi-sports element of it. Make the most of it and don’t let it overwhelm you, use it to your advantage.

At the end of the day it is just a normal competition for your sport. The only difference is, instead of going back to a hotel, you are going back to a multi-sport village with a lot of other athletes and distractions but you need to keep focused on what you train for day-in-day-out.

Best of luck to them all.